Chinese steel imports could pose safety risk
Chinese steel being imported into the UK could be putting lives and buildings at risk, as well as jobs. Additives in some Chinese steel used to reinforce concrete
can affect the metal’s strength when it is welded and now UK industry is highlighting the dangers posed by it.
Chinese steel makers sometimes add boron to their products to get a tax rebate and when the steel is joined by arc welding, boron can make welds more likely to crack, weakening structures.
The risk comes from current regulations not requiring steel-makers to specify how much boron has been added if the steel is used for reinforcing bar.
The danger is growing as imports of steel from China rise. In 2013, just 2% of rebar was imported from China, while today 39%of 308,000 tonnes required by UK construction comes from the country.
Roy Rickhuss, general secretary of steelworkers’ union Community, said: “Given that there are tens of thousands of tonnes of Chinese imports at UK ports or in the supply chain, clarity is desperately needed to avoid unnecessary risks.”
Construction companies are being urged to only use steel whose provenance can be traced, under the Charter for Sustainable British Steel campaign.
According to UK Steel, Britain produces about 12m tonnes of steel a year, but Chinese mills have an annual overcapacity of 250m tonnes and are dumping the surplus abroad.
The news comes just weeks after Tata said it would cut up to 720 jobs at its steel works in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, because it could not compete with cheap imports from China.