Industry Association, Thermal Insulation Products and Systems Association SA (TIPSASA), consists of manufacturers, suppliers, contractors and consultants in the South African thermal insulation industry.
The association was formed to assist with the promotion, selection, specification and installation of thermal insulation products and systems, and to combat the usage of cheap substandard unsafe products and practices.
This opinion piece from TIPSASA chairperson, Des Schnetler, deals with the issue of testing and standards as they currently relate to compliance with the National Building Regulations (NBR).
Introducing “The Mark”
Traditionally, the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) 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 three-year period. The misconception in the industry is that the SABS mark of approval is mandatory, but it is not. The NBR simply requires that products should be tested and comply with South African National Standards (SANS).
The split between regulatory and commercial services
Historically, the SABS also undertook certain regulatory functions on behalf of South Africa. In keeping with the best international practices, this regulatory function was separated from the organisation’s standardisation and certification activities, via the promulgation of the new Standards Act and the National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications Act (Act 5 of 2008) in September 2008.
Under these new laws, the former SABS regulatory division separated to form the National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications (NRCS), a new independent organisation also residing under the Department of Trade and Industry.
Compulsory specifications are technical regulations that require conformity of a product or service to health, safety, or environmental protection requirements of a standard, or specific provisions of a standard.
The NRCS’s mandate includes promoting public health and safety, environmental protection and ensuring fair trade.
The core functions of the SABS are to develop National Standards, to do testing, and certification (with the SABS mark), and to undertake training. About 77% of its total revenue came from a government funding grant. It was well known and held in high esteem internationally, and its affiliation with the International Standards Organisation (ISO) enabled the SABS to have a strong connection with other standards bodies worldwide.
The SABS was placed in administration in July 2018 by then-minister Rob Davies after he lost confidence in its directors. According to an article in News 24 dated 17 October 2022 and reported by Jan Cronje, Davies axed the group’s board for “underperformance”, saying the local industry was suffering because of its poor service delivery.
What was supposed to be a temporary fix, lasting about six months, has now dragged on for five years. As a result, the SABS has functioned without a permanent board or a full-time chief executive officer since July 2018, the absence of which had led to instability. Unfortunately, the SABS has also experienced its fair share of the “brain drain” although an acting chief executive officer and new board were recently appointed.
As a result of the ongoing problems experienced with testing and certification, TIPSASA, like other industries such as the Concrete Manufacturers Association (CMA) and the Institute of Plumbing South Africa (IOPSA), decided to support independent South African National Accreditation System (SANAS) accredited laboratories to assist with the testing and certification of products. In addition, the association will introduce its own accreditation requirements and mark of approval to ensure the quality of products.
The TIPSASA mark and accreditation system
Applicable to members, the certification and TIPSASA mark are voluntary and comprise of the following:
Step 1: Testing
The first step is to test the product according to the product standard. The testing laboratory must comply with the ISO/SANS 17025 standard to be SANAS accredited.
Step 2: Certification
Certification is aimed at manufacturing members and sole distributors and cannot happen without testing. Certificates and accreditation are issued after successful assessments by a SANAS accredited certification body. The certification body must comply with the ISO/SANS 17065 standard to be accredited with SANAS.
Accreditation requirements include compliance with a fully implemented quality management system and obviously compliance with the standard to which it was tested to. Accreditation and mark holders will be audited annually.
Step 3: The TIPSASA mark
Requirements include compliance with a fully implemented quality management system and full compliance with the product-specific standards.
Qualifying members are issued with a certificate of compliance and are allowed to display the mark on their websites, marketing brochures and products. Accreditation and mark holders will also be listed on the TIPSASA website.
Does this imply the end of the SABS?
Definitely not, TIPSASA will continue to support the SABS. The preparation of new standards and the revision of existing standards will still be undertaken in collaboration with the SABS.
Numerous international standards have been adopted, but South Africa lacks the appropriate facilities to test to these standards. It is not possible within the SABS due to financial constraints and expertise, hence the support of independent SANAS accredited laboratories that do have the finances to set up the necessary facilities.
TIPSASA will continue to publish guides, brochures and on the practical side, training. The prime focus is to ensure that architects, engineers, developers, contractors and property owners are provided with the correct information on high-quality products and installed methods, in accordance with the manufacturer’s installation specifications. Remember, thermal insulation is compulsory in certain building occupancy classes since 2011.