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New COFRAC Inspection accreditation scheme

The inspection division of Cofrac in now offering a new accreditation scheme for the control and verification of removable structures to ensure the safety of people.

What is a removable structure?
A removable structure is a temporary and dismountable structure for sporting, cultural, commercial, or tourist events and consists of a framework that can be repeatedly assembled and dismantled for temporary use.
Removable structures are divided in two groups:

  • Frames designed to support people which are subdivided into three classes depending on the fall height;
  • Frames for stage equipment that are not used to support people are classified into three categories according to the risk they represent for people in case of overturning or collapse and the highest point of the frame installation.

Context and challenges of this accreditation scheme
In France, until 2022, there were no rules for verifying the mechanical strength of demountable structures, or for assessing an organization’s ability to control and verify them. However, the industry had created a practical guide that the safety commissions also relied on.

With the Paris 2024 Olympics Games approaching and safety issues at meetings associated with major gatherings, it is necessary to fill the regulatory gap.

A working group has been set up by the French Ministry of the Interior and Overseas Territories to draw up a technical reference system setting out the design, installation and operating rules, as well as the inspection and verification methods for these structures. This work was based on the “Practical Guide

– Dismantable Equipment and Assemblies” drawn up in 2017 by SYNAPSE and the “Good Practice Guide
– Dismantable Equipment and Assemblies” of the Paris Police Prefecture.

Cofrac was also involved in this work due to the Ministry’s decision to rely on accredited organizations to carry out these inspections.

What are these checks and inspections?
Controls and checks are divided into two phases:

  • Design control – This check related to the stability and strength of the provisional designed structure (mechanical resistance, climatic constraints, human passage, etc.) is carried out before the first installation of the demountable assembly.
  • Verification of assembly and inspection in operation – The aim of the verification of the set-up is to confirm that the assembly conditions comply with the technical prerequisites defined in the manufacturer’s manual or the technical file and to verify the strength and stability of the dismountable assembly.

On October 1, 2022, Cofrac launched the accreditation scheme according to the NF EN ISO/IEC 17020 standard for two areas of inspection: the design control and the verification of assembly and operational inspection. The assessment plan relies on the decree published on August 5, 2022, setting out the safety rules, technical provisions, inspection control obligations and conditions applying to these temporary and dismountable structures.

This scheme has two specificities:

  • The difference in the type of independence of the inspection body. As part of the design inspection, the organization must meet type A, so-called “third party” requirements. Unlike organizations for assembly verification which can be either type A or C with a requirement that they do not check the removable structure they have assembled.
  • A dual approach to the design control activity: approval or accreditation. The regulatory framework authorizes bodies approved as technical building inspectors to carry out design inspections without accreditation. This approval covers the strength of the structures, and technical inspectors were approved to give opinions on temporary structures by the safety commissions.

Accreditation is mandatory for organizations that are not approved technical inspectors. It therefore constitutes a real opportunity for these organizations to be able to provide this type of service, in view of their broader markets and skills.

Accreditation already existed for similar activities such as scaffolding, mechanical shelving and structural strength testing. To meet the demand for accreditation, Cofrac extended the qualifications of some of these technical assessors to these new schemes and has also qualified new assessors.

To date, 4 organizations are accredited for these new schemes, and others are in the process of becoming accredited.

Accreditation will be mandatory from 1 January 2024 for all inspection bodies wishing to operate in this technical field.