Imported Plywood Formwork Fails Stress-Grade Tests

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Imported Plywood Formwork Fails Stress-Grade Tests

09 July 2013

Engineered Wood Products

with Simon Dorries


Simon Dorries is the General Manager of Engineered Wood Products Association of Australasia (EWPAA). EWPAA is funded by the veneer, plywood and laminated veneer lumber (LVL) and wood panel manufacturers.

The EWPAA has alerted construction work unions and consumer law watchdogs in New Zealand and Australia to significant examples of imported product non-compliance that could have cost lives on building projects in the Northern Territory.

Plywood panels, suspected to come from Asia, failed structurally under loads well below those referenced in accompanying documents which stated the grade as F17.

This is potentially a serious case of structural non-compliance; it was very unusual to see panels break in the test machine, at proof loads so far below the claimed F-grade.

It lands on top of hundreds of cases of imported wood products, mostly from Asia, that in recent years have failed to meet Australian standards for structural application and safety. Just as bad, is the complete lack of policing of non-compliant materials by government authorities.

Samples of formwork plywood sheets from the Northern Territory project were supplied in June to the EWPAA for compliance assessment against the claimed grade F17 and product standard AS6669. The sample sheets were assessed against the product standard with 50% of samples breaking well beneath the loads the supplier claimed were fit for purpose.

These failures lead to further investigations of core veneer quality. This showed the core veneers to contain non-structural end joints which are totally prohibited under the Formwork Plywood Standard AS6669. Despite claims, the plywood tested failed all requirements for F17 in relation to modulus of elasticity and bending strength.

The low bending strength confirms the plywood is not F17 as claimed by the supplier.

Had this material been manufactured in Australia or New Zealand, the policies of the EWPAA would require its immediate recall from the market, removal of all grade and certification marks and a notice be made to all potential users confirming it should not be used structurally.

The EWPAA has notified the NZ Ministry of Consumer Affairs, the NZ Certified Builders Association, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, the Northern Territory Department of Workplace Health and Safety and major contractors operating in the Territory about the latest test results on the failed plywood.

Specifiers, design engineers, architects and builders are urged to check the branding and certification of all plywood and panel products to make sure they are structurally safe for purpose. Products branded with the EWPAA/PAA brand meet all Australian and New Zealand standards for safety and performance.


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