The technical approval process comprises three main steps:
Submission of an application, examination of the admissibility and confirmation of the admissibility
For particular products, variants to the Technical approval, ATG, have been developed to reply to the specific needs of subsectors of the construction sector (ATG/D, ATG-E, ATG/H, ATG/S and ATG-M).
A manufacturer wishing to obtain a Technical approval, or one of these variants, should submit an application.
Having received the application, the UBAtc secretariat will contact the applicant, confirming receipt of the application and providing him with a file reference (e.g. AG123412). This unique file reference prevents confusion when communicating about a given file.
Simultaneously, the UBAtc secretariat will contact the approval operator responsible for the technical domain that covers the application. Upon the verification performed by the approval operator, amongst others based on the applicant’s technical file, the UBAtc secretariat will inform the applicant through the declaration of admissibility:
- Whether the product(s) in question may be examined by the approval operator and may lead to the issuing of a technical approval
- The specialised group responsible for evaluating the file,
- The costs for the technical approval*
- The approval operator’s employee assigned to take care of the file
Having received the declaration of admissibility, the applicant should return the signed document to the UBAtc secretariat and the down payment.
The technical examination and development of the certification file
The signed declaration of admissibility having been returned to the UBAtc secretariat and the down payment paid to the approval operator, the approval operator will study the file and present an evaluation plan. This plan specifies which evaluations need to take place (mostly tests to determine properties and performances) and which information still needs to be made available by the applicant. The evaluation may be based on an approval guideline, but may also be established on a case-by-case basis.
Once the applicant and the approval operator agree upon the evaluation plan, the approval operator will visit the production facility or facilities. This visit may be performed by one or several persons, because the result of the visit will not only be used to establish the technical approval file, but will also be used as a basis to establish the certification contract. During this visit, the approval operator will perform sampling or have sampling performed under his responsibility. The applicant is responsible for ensuring that the necessary evaluation takes place. It is likely that the approval operator sets criteria with regards to the laboratory where the evaluation may take place (e.g. the laboratory will probably have to be accredited). In some cases, the approval operator may also require one or several site visits to see how the product or system is installed, executed, incorporated or assembled.
When the necessary inspections and evaluations have taken place, the approval operator will collect all the necessary reports and summarize those in an evaluation report. The evaluation report is the basis for the development of the (draft) technical approval text.
The (draft) technical approval text will be presented in a committee of experts with regards to the subject of the application (the operator’s executive board). This committee of independent experts treats all the information comprised in the evaluation report and the draft technical approval text confidentially. The outcome of discussions that take place in the executive board may lead to a favourable outcome, which means that the (draft) technical approval text will be presented to the operator’s specialized group, or may lead to further evaluation that needs to take place or additional information that the applicant needs to make available.
Once accepted by the executive board, the (draft) technical approval text will be scrutinised by the committee of representatives of the relevant stakeholders of the (sub)sector with regards to the subject of the application (the operator’s specialised group). This part of the process is an essential part of the technical evaluation, because here the work of the approval operator will be checked by external parties, ensuring that the subject of the application is fit for the intended use, is in accordance with the Belgian works’ legislation and may be installed, incorporated, executed or assembled in accordance with the generally applicable Belgian state of the art and without undue risks.
Publication, translation and continuous assessment and certification
Once the specialised group expressed a favourable opinion regarding the (draft) technical approval text, the text will be forwarded by the approval operator to the UBAtc secretariat. Having checked the document to ensure that its format satisfies the requirements of the UBAtc, the UBAtc secretariat will forward the text to the applicant for proof reading. Where necessary taking into account comments submitted by the applicant, the document is finally signed by the management of the approval operator and the UBAtc and published on the UBAtc website.
However, before submitting the (draft) technical approval text to the operator’s and UBAtc’s management for final approval, the certification operator needs to confirm that the certification contract was duly prepared, agreed between the operator and the applicant and signed. After all, certification is an integral part of the technical approval, ensuring that the product placed on the market corresponds with the product specified in the technical approval text.
To speed up the availability of the final technical approval text, the text will be published in one language version (Dutch or French), but the UBAtc secretariat will simultaneously submit that text for translation in the other language (and in English, if the applicant requested an English version as well). Publication of the final technical approval text in Dutch and French is obligatory.
In a number of sectors the concept of continuous assessment has already been introduced, in other sectors it is being introduced. Continuous assessment means that the approval holder does not have to apply for a renewal of his technical approval. Through regular contacts, the approval operator will ensure that the approval and certification files are being kept up-to-date, improving the text if and when necessary. Only in case of significant changes will a renewal request be necessary if continuous assessment is being applied.
Products covered by technical approvals are always certified to ensure that the product specified in the technical approval text corresponds with the product that is placed on the Belgian market. Therefore, before the final technical approval text is issued and published, the certification operator and the applicant need to agree a certification contract. This contract will specify where the certification operator will check the production facilities, what will be checked, whether tests need to be performed by the manufacturer and/or by an external laboratory and the frequencies of these checks and tests.