Most secondary producers of steel bars in India fail quality test, findings raise questions on safety of buildings

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In a shocking revelation, a recent lab test has found that most of the secondary players engaged in manufacturing of TMT or Thermo Mechanically Treated steel bars, used in the construction industry, have failed to meet the required parameters. The revelation has posed serious danger to the safety of buildings constructed using TMT bars, made by these smaller players.

A joint exercise by EPC World and Sunbeam Auto Pvt Ltd has concluded that the construction industry has a grave quality concern. In its cover story, published in November, the EPC World explained the methodology of how it went about gathering facts on the quality of steel bars used in building high-rises in India. It wrote, “We collected a total of 44 samples of 8 mm and 16 mm TMT bars of 25 brands. The lab testing was executed with the support of Sunbeam Auto Pvt Ltd, a testing, research and development center. The samples were sent for testing in October 2018. For the purpose of research analysis the sample included products supplied by both the primary and secondary TMT producers and were selected on an unbiased basis.

Source: EPC World

 

According to the results disclosed by the lab testing, while the products collected from the primary players passed out with flying colors, most of the secondary players (of whom the samples were collected) failed to meet the required parameters.

The latest finding match a similar survey done by infra think tank First Construction  Council in October, which said that 18 out of 26 TMT bar brands in the country had failed on quality parameters. FCC President Pratap Padode was quoted by news agency PTI, “We had taken different diameter samples of similar grade (Fe500). Though classification can be done on diameter basis, a very interesting factor emerged from the test results was that, while all primary players managed to get positive results, many secondary players failed.”

The report further added that while all samples collected from primary players ‘managed to maintain the quality benchmark, most different diameter samples from secondary players failed to meet the requirements.’

Why you must worry

Steel bars or TMT bars used in the construction industry are made by two kind of players, primary and secondary producers. Primary producers are big brands such as Steel  Authority of India, Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Ltd., JSW Steel, Jindal Steel & Power Ltd, TATA Steel, Essar Steel etc. Then there are a host of secondary producers of these bars and they happen to outsell their more powerful competitors.

The report by EPC World said, that currently’ about 55 percent of the Indian bar supply comes from the secondary producers.’ Quoting a senior official from a reputed primary steel manufacturing company, it said that while big players are known for producing high-quality steel bars, ‘most of the secondary majors are more quantity focused in the country.’ “A major boon for the secondary majors is due to the growing clusters and production hubs across the country. Today we have 15 such most prominent clusters in India, at Mandi
Gobindgarh, Raipur, Dhanbad etc. to name a few,” the official was quoted as saying. Purchasing from these smaller players usually suit developers, who are often keen on making more money out of their building projects in India. Providing quality tends to take a back seat for the want of bigger share of profit in building projects.

However, some experts say that many small and budding contractors are simply unaware and unable to distinguish between good quality TMT bars and those manufactured by secondary players. Manoj Gupta of Dehleez Spatial Design Pvt Ltd. was quoted by EPC world, “When looked into the quality specifications, it is the primary majors who stand true to their word of commitment on quality as against the secondary ones. A major cause of
concern is the lack of awareness among the small and budding contractors who step into the process of construction. Such players often invest and opt for cheap products, which suit their budget and often neglect the longevity of the total project. As an architect, we prefer and recommend to our clients only the best in the market that meets all the
required guidelines and make them well aware about the need to invest in buying only quality TMT bars.”

From foundation to column, beam or the slab in any structure, TMT bars are used in any building construction. It’s therefore of utmost importance that these bars conform to the high standards, prescribed by authorities. Experts say that even a minor negligence can be fatal since they have the potential to compromise the overall durability of the entire structure.

Had the builders of the Twin Towers of New York taken care of these basic requirements, the entire building may not have collapsed with the heat generated by the crash of two planes. Preferring TMT bars made by primary brands is also key to prevent the destruction of buildings in the event of fires or earthquakes.

What to look for while choosing TMT bars

Experts say that TMT bars being sold in India are available in three different grades i.e. Fe-415, Fe-500, Fe-550, and Fe-600. Fe in chemistry denotes the presence of iron or phosphorous in the bar. The higher the grade of the TMT bar, the stronger it is. Higher grade TMT bars are usually used in the core of a building, such as floors and roofs, while lower grade bars are used in constructing balcony railings and decorative structures.

Writing for Punjab’s Tribune newspaper, Jagvir Goyal explained that depending upon their chemical composition, steel bars have different designations. Goyal, who is the HoD and engineer-in-chief, Civil Engineering Department in a Punjab PSU, wrote, “These designations are listed in BIS code. Some of these are Fe 410, Fe 415, Fe 500, Fe 500 D, Fe 500 S, Fe 550, Fe 550 D, Fe 600. While the prefix Fe is symbol of Iron in chemistry, the figures of 410, 415, 500, 550, 600 and so on denote the yield strength of the steel. The suffixes like D and S indicate the ductility of the steel. These designations are clearly engraved on the steel bars at equal intervals along a length of the bar.”

He added, “Bars of above designations have different chemical composition. This chemical composition plays an important role in their performance, strength and durability. The content of carbon, sulphur and phosphorus in steel bars greatly affects their performance. Excess percentage of phosphorus makes steel bars brittle, while excess percentage of sulphur lowers their melting point.”

With natural calamities such as floods and earthquakes becoming routine occurrences, it’s of utmost importance why one needs to exercise cautions in choosing the right kind of TMT bars in construction of buildings.

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