Testing and Certification Initiative

29 May 2017 4:08 PM | Anonymous

Certified Quality Plumbing Products

Plumbers understand that plumbing is the conveyance of water, which means the supply of clean water and removal of dirty water and sewerage. Quality plumbing products suitable for the building environment form part of industry’s responsibility to ensure public health and safety when working with water - a critical resource.

It is imperative that there is a guideline as to what constitutes a good quality product suitable for use in a building. This not only governs the industry, but also creates an equitable environment for all manufacturers and suppliers to compete.

Standards such as the National Building Regulations (NBR) and Water Services Regulations (WSR) are not only a guideline but a regulation; which makes them mandatory. In the current environment, they have little positive contribution to managing the building environment as a result of ineffective enforcement.

An imbalance is created when one of these areas are lacking or absent, such as the certification of products, further impacted by poor policing when products are installed. The consequences, for example, of such challenges are the manufacturing or supplying of poor quality products not fit for the South African plumbing environment.

This problem has a knock-on effect and may only become apparent sometime later, which makes the problem even more difficult to correct, especially when poor quality products have already been sold into an industry.

Ultimately compliant manufactures and suppliers are forced to compete with poor quality products still carrying a huge cost of certifying their products. Cost sensitivity is a key factor in a competitive environment, however not at the expense or risk of the public or sustainability of an industry.

The reality is, non-compliant products become more cost effective and inviting to the public. This also is perceived to be a competitive advantage to installers who benefit, short term, by gaining work; they do however lose clients in the long term due to product failure.

It is therefore extremely important that the entire industry takes responsibility. The Institute of Plumbing South Africa (IOPSA) has been working closely with their manufacturing members through the manufacturers forum to facilitate solutions to overcome the imbalance that has been created due to lack of enforcement of products, as well as poor or non-existent product testing and certification.

Traditionally, the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) has provided an extensive array of testing and certification. Once the product met the SABS testing and certification requirements, it could carry the SABS mark for a 3-year period. The misconception in the industry is that the SABS mark of approval is mandatory. However, the requirement of the National Building Regulations (NBR) is simply that products should comply with SANS standards unless the SABS mark is specifically required by local bylaws.

This means that manufacturers or suppliers of products do not have to carry the SABS mark, but should prove that their products meet the minimum performance requirements of the relevant SANS standards by means of product certification.

The solutions offered for testing and certification are unable to support market demand for testing and certification, so industry has naturally begun the process of finding alternative solutions to measure their product performance, to remain competitive and meet the requirements of regulations.

IOPSA is therefore facilitating through industry, the development of quality testing laboratories and certification bodies. This creates opportunity for interested competitive market forces without excluding any existing testing or certification solutions.

IOPSA Manufacturer members have voluntarily tabled their requirements to potential testing houses and certification providers who test against the South African National Standards (SANS) document. Manufacturers will engage individually with the testing houses, with IOPSA purely facilitating these conversations.

The risks of an open competitive quality support environment is the possibility of misinterpretation of requirements, standards and management. The government body that currently measures and certifies testing and certification entities is South African National Accreditation System (SANAS)

It is critical that industry and public are assured of quality products across the plumbing supply chain. This can be achieved by a plumbing industry oversight body, creating an industry guideline within the existing framework and enforcement mechanism ensuring minimum product performance standards are kept.  

The health and safety of a person should not be equated to cost. In other words, one cannot state that Health and Safety requirements cannot be met due to expense.  The plumbing industry, for example, cannot place a person at risk such as not installing an electrical geyser safety valve which may cause a hot water cylinder to explode causing harm, damage or even death.

As plumbing is a relatively technical subject, one cannot expect a consumer to understand the risks when making a choice unless they are highlighted. This may not seem important or too much of a risk. So, let’s highlight the reality that if you knowingly sell or install a product that may harm a person now or in the future, it is highly irresponsible and according to the Consumer Protection Act, Building Services Act, Water services Act, Occupational Health & Safety Act illegal and may lead to prosecution. 

Let industry take ownership of their future and an equitable environment for all. 

For more information, please visit the IOPSA website at www.iopsa.org. Or contact 08610 PLUMBER



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