Buildings fail safe emission ratings

News /
12 April 2013
FIAA president Fred White uses labels to guarantee that emissions are below those demanded by Australian authorities.

Plywood and veneer wardrobes and joinery items imported from China and installed on a multi-unit building project in northern NSW have been condemned after the Department of Housing found emission levels had “soared through the roof” and the health and safety of occupants was put at risk. The project cost the developers an additional $1.3 million to replace the furniture and employ plumbers, electricians and tilers in a complete re-build after the non-compliance order.

The renovation was completed using Australian manufactured furniture products – products that consistently meet standards for low emissions, quality and safety. The president of the Furnishing Industry Association of Australia Fred White said he was not surprised by the outcome if imported Chinese wood products were used.

“Look, we’re telling project builders it’s their choice – if they install imported materials that fail Australian standards for emissions and safety then they have to cop it sweet if these products cause an illness or a death, and this could go as high as a royal commission,” Mr White said.

Mr White, who is a director of Homestead Kitchens and Joinery at Tuggerah on the NSW central coast, said the presentation of laboratory tests and other data that showed high emissions in imported furniture helped win his company two recent projects that were about to cross over to Chinese manufactured items.

“On one occasion we furnished the project manager with information on emissions from boards and how down line he would be responsible for any failures,” Mr White said. “On another, an aged care facility, it was demonstrated that high emissions were likely to be fatal to elderly occupants and that the responsibility rested with the project builder."

Mr White said many commercial and government building projects were attracted by the cheaper price of imported material from China.

“But they must pay for these imports up front before they’re even in the container and they don’t have a remote idea about whether they meet Australian standards or not. “I’m telling you now, if they approached Australian manufacturers with half a million up front they’d get a good price, too, and the assurance that the supply would meet all of Australia’s strictest regulations.”

Fred White said a ‘green ticket’ campaign by the Engineered Wood Products Association of Australasia had been embraced by FIAA members who were attaching labels to products in their showrooms.

The product awareness campaign includes an adhesive label that guarantees plywood and panel products and furniture manufactured from them meet Australian and New Zealand standards and are tested to have formaldehyde levels below those demanded by health authorities. EWPAA has distributed more than 100,000 labels to EWPAA members and furniture and kitchen manufacturers. The labels promote the safety of EWPAA member products that are tested to emission standards of Super E0, E0 and E01.

Mr White said such campaigns promoting Australian manufacture were greatly assisted by the Furniture, Cabinet, and Joinery Alliance (FCJ) which had gathered real steam since it was established. The FCJ Alliance was formed by a number of industry groups to pursue issues of common interests that affect the industry.

EWPAA is represented on the FCJ along with members of the Furnishing Industry Association of Australia, Australian Furniture Association, Australian Window Association, Cabinet Makers Association of Victoria, Australian Shop and Office Fitting Industry Association, and the Window and Door Industry Council.

“These industries are gaining a lot of mileage from the alliance which has the support of unions, the government opposition and health and safety authorities,” Mr White said. “They’re listening and recognising that this is a true industry alliance fighting for Australian manufacturers and Australian jobs.”

Mr White said the industry was keeping a check on suggestions by Opposition Treasurer Joe Hockey that future government building tenders might be extended to overseas companies. “If there’s any truth in this, then Joe deservers an upper-cut.”

Mr White said the furnishing industry was getting a lot of sympathetic hearing from MP Sophie Mirabella, Shadow Minister for Industry, who represents the Indi electorate in northeast Victoria, a region supporting jobs in the forestry, wood chipping and timber processing industries.

“We’d like to have a two-way bet that Sophie will be the Minister for Industry after the September election,” Mr White said. “We’ve made it clear to her that the industry is not looking for money; rather we want government protection for Australian manufacturers so we can develop an on-going vibrant and healthy local industry employing Australians.”

Engineered Wood Products Association of Australasia

The Engineered Wood Products Association of Australasia provides accreditation for plywood, LVL, particleboard, MDF and solid timber.

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