Reading between the lines

The identifying features of reliable, standards approved civil drainage products compared to poorly made, non-compliant counterfeits.Many components make up a reliable road network. These range from the material used in the pavement to line marking and lighting infrastructure that guides the traveller’s way. Civil drainage, likewise, adds to the overall safety, reliability and functionality of the road network.

“A common misconception about civil drainage is that it is not integral to the reliability of the road network,” says Mark Jackson, Nepean Building & Infrastructure’s Victorian State Manager. “Specifier’s see civil drainage as quite an obscure product and not all that important, but it’s quite the opposite. It serves a critical function in the safety of most roads and, like the pavement, needs to support large, repetitive loads for both vehicular and also pedestrian traffic. We must always use products that are robust and very high quality in this application,” says Mr. Jackson.

“Road authorities, councils and other asset owners have a duty of care to those who uses the roads and the selection of civil drainage products has a direct impact on that. The truth of the matter is that if these products do not comply with Australian Standards or are of a poor quality, they can ultimately fail leading to injury or even death.”

Much of the problem revolves around some product being sold in the Australian market which is of poor quality manufacture, is non-compliant and even counterfeit. “Some manufacturers have taken shortcuts to make cheap products,” says Mr Jackson. “We work in an industry that sees a fair bit of non-compliance.”

While Mr. Jackson acknowledges that there are a number of high-quality manufacturers in Australia, he says there are some products from overseas in particular that are not up to scratch. “Understanding quality and identifying a reliable product brand is quintessential to not being fooled by poorly made, cheap civil drainage products.”

Australia’s civil drainage products must be compliant with Australian Standard AS3996-2006 which will be physically identifiable on the product. Another identifier of quality product is that the manufacturer’s company name will be featured on a product as will its load class.

“All good manufacturers put their name on their products and have the standard stamped on it too,” says Mr. Jackson. “If the product does not feature these basic imprints then it is not compliant with the Australian Standard and therefore may be subject to failure with possible catastrophic consequences. This is a very real issue especially with regard to counterfeit products. People can be injured simply because there are products out there that are not compliant with industry standards. AS3996-2006 is in place because the product must be safe and compliance with the standard makes it so.

Weldlok – the civil products brand of Nepean Building & Infrastructure – has been well known in Australia since the 1970s. “We are well versed in what’s required and have, for all that time, been a trusted source of information on what drainage products should be used in the Australian market and how to meet the requirements of each application,” explains Mr. Jackson.

“We manufacture and sell products from major arterial, regional and council roads to earthmover yards, airport aprons and everything in between. Our products are designed for regular, heavy-duty use. We are very strong in stormwater grates and have recently introduced cast iron access covers, which compliment the range. What sets us apart at Weldlok is that we strive to be a manufacturer that listens to customers and creates products that meet their specific needs. We’ve engaged with the users – including road authorities and local councils across Australia – and we work with them to design products that they actually want.”

Weldlok differentiates itself by being a manufacturer of high quality, standards compliant civil products. Its manufacturing facilities are NATA accredited (12043) to ensure product compliance with AS3996-2006. “That’s the standard we work to and comply with, as should all industry,” says Mr. Jackson. “Alarm bells should ring when something is really cheap. If it sounds too good to be true – it absolutely is.”

Brent Frampton, Weldlok’s National Civil Products Sales Manager, says that much of the competition stems from imported products that are cheap and not necessarily of equal quality to the assurance you get from a local accredited supplier. “At our Yagoona, NSW facility we have the ability to both manufacture and galvanise our products on site. Because we have a NATA accredited testing laboratory on site we can test all of our grates to ensure they meet the Australian Standard. A lot of our bigger customers want compliance certificates, which we are able to supply”.

Mr. Frampton, like Mr. Jackson, says the quality of a product can be identified just by looking at it. “What we see a lot is that grates from overseas are hand welded rather than forge welded and it could be as simple as identifying the poor craftsmanship in something as simple as the hinge system. There are a lot of cheap options in the market and for us it’s important to push the fact that we manufacture to the Australian Standard and do full NATA load testing.

“Of the utmost importance for customers is to be vigilant when choosing civil drainage products. Identify poor quality material and workmanship and understand what makes a good grating product before committing to its purchase. Quality and compliance should never be compromised – it’s just too important,” surmises Mr. Jackson.

“It’s is a competitive market as it should be, but you can not compromise on quality or compliance when it comes to safety.”

Mark Jackson serves as the Committee Chairman for the Grates & Access Covers Alliance and Committee Chairman for the AS3996- CE-029 review committee.

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