From July 2022 every wood treatment operation managed by or supplying TTF members must be quality assured by an independent third-party. As the deadline approaches wood treaters are set to turn to the Wood Protection Association’s ‘Benchmark’ quality scheme.

The WPA Benchmark quality scheme provides independent confirmation that wood products have been treated correctly in accordance with BS 8417, the British Standardfor preservative impregnated wood, and the WPA Code of Practice for Industrial Wood Preservation 2021.

Whilst BS 8417 specifies the minimum levels of preservative penetration and retention for every application where wood is used, it does not provide recommendationson how to achieve these critical levels of protection. In this respect it points to the WPA Code of Practice for the essential process guidance.

The WPA Benchmark quality scheme operates on the principle that wood treated in accordance with the WPA Code will achieve the minimum penetration and retention requirements for the end use and service life set in BS8417 . ‘Put simply, WPA Benchmark provides the third-party verificationof compliance with BS 8417 that TTF members are seeking ’ says Gordon Ewbank, CEO of the WPA.

Tried and tested quality scheme

‘Benchmark broke new ground when it was launched ten years ago but it is now tried and tested with a proven track record’ says Gordon Ewbank. He believes that the decision was taken in 2020 by TTFmembers to require third-party verification of treated wood will be a major driver to change theway such products are marketed in the UK – building supplychain and buyer confidence and growing demand. He confirms that feedback from wood treaters who were early adopters of WPABenchmark show clearly that the scheme has added value to their business and improved customer satisfaction regarding the performance of treated wood in service. ‘These are exactly the commercial benefits that lay behind the decision of TTF members to make the third-partyquality assurance scheme a keypart of their drive to grow demand for treated wood that can be trusted’ says Gordon.

How WPA Benchmark works

WPA Benchmark verifies the quality of an individual treated wood product such as a fence post, decking joist or building component. The scheme provides independent confirmation for both sellers and buyers that a wood product is compliant with the standards set in BS 8417. For ground contact applications a key feature of the scheme is that treated wood products with both the 15 and 30 year desired service life treatment specifications, can be certificated.

Wood treaters looking to join WPA Benchmark mustbe able to demonstrate that a consistent relationship known as the ‘Safe Relationship’ exists between penetration and retentionrequirements and the more easily measurable aspects of the treatment process, such as preservative concentration and pressure cycle. They must thenbe able to show that they can control these various aspects in subsequent treatment activities. Verification that a treatment safe relationship is in place for every product requiring WPA Benchmark certification is assessed by an independent auditor. Depending on the data provided by the treater this is carried out either remotely or at the treatment site.

Once a treater achieves accreditation the continued certification of their products is subject to an annual surveillance audit. Depending on the compliance history of a treater this too can be a remote audit to reduce costs.

More details of the scheme and costs can be found in Guidance Note TW7: WPA Benchmark Scheme for Preservative Treated Wood – Executive Summary, available to download free of charge from the WPA website

Avoid an accreditation log-jam

The WPA has expanded its team of independent auditors to help meet demand for treaters seeking accreditation to WPA Benchmark before the deadline of July next year. Gordon Ewbank emphasisesthat the process of accreditation does not happen quickly and can take a number of weeks if the required data is not available or is incomplete. ‘We would encourage TTF members not to leave applying for WPA Benchmark too late – those who have not already started the process should get in touch now and avoid an accreditation log-jam in the new year’.

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