|In an often-confusing world of standards, certifications, names and their abbreviations, the Southern African Plastic Pipe Manufacturers’ Association (SAPPMA) makes a clear differentiation between certification and standards bodies.
It’s clear that any confusion needs to be avoided when referring to the individual roles and the specific functions of the various existing standards bodies.
“In recent months, we have had to deal with a growing number of queries from industry role players, municipalities and the general public regarding the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) and the South African National Standard (SANS). It seems there is a misconception between the meaning of the term “certification body” (for example SABS) and “national specification body” (for example SANS), ” explains SAPPMA chief executive officer Jan Venter.
According to Venter, the perception exists that the SABS and SANS are one and the same and that the one cannot be used without the other. “This is not the case. The SABS is a certification body accredited by the South African National Accreditation System (SANAS). It is therefore incorrect to refer to the SABS as a standard. The SABS is a testing and certification body that is allowed to sample and test products, as well as to certify a product to a specific SANS standard that is in accordance with SANAS accreditation. SANS, on the other hand, refers to a specific product. A SANS standard may be either locally written or created by adopting an international (usually ISO) standard, “he explains.
“One of the possible reasons for this misunderstanding might be due to the fact that the SABS was involved with the writing, development and distribution of specifications in years gone by. These specifications were national specifications and were published as SABS specifications.
Though in recent years, the role of the SABS has changed. Specifications are now being by SANS: a seperate, independent body that reports to the Department of Trade and Industry. The SABS has been divided into two different business units, namely certification and test laboratories. This was done to make way for other certification bodies.
“It is also important to note that SANS standards are not the property of the SABS, as is often believed. SANS standards may be awarded to a product by any accreditation body complying with SANAS requirements and accredited to SANS 17065,” Venter explains.
An example of such an accreditation body is the South African Technical Auditing Service (SATAS). They can issue SANS certification for a product based on independent test results, as well as results of their audit on the manufacturer.
“SATAS is therefore an alternative to the SABS when it comes to certifying products to SANS standards. A product accredited to a SANS standard by SATAS is therefore equivalent in all aspects to the product being certified by the SABS,” Venter says.
Both the SABS and SATAS have post-permit inspection regimes in place, which allow them to regularly inspect certified products and thereby ensure continued compliance to the relevant SANS standard. Regardless of the certification body, the product is still certified to the same SANS standard that governs its testing and performance. These days, most specifications are done by SANS and have either been developed nationally, or are ISO-adopted standards. The thinking behind this is to bring the SANS specifications in line with international specifications as far as possible.
“Some confusion might still exist with the general public, seeing that SANS specifications are still obtainable from the SABS in Pretoria and SANS occupies the same building as the SABS. Accredited certification bodies like SATAS can now also certify companies and their quality systems to SANS specifications. However, our view is that competition in any market is a good thing. One positive outcome of these developments is that the industry has now been given a choice of service providers in the certification environment,” Venter concludes