SAQCC Fire road show fired up

January 2015 Fire & Safety

In late November, the South African Qualifications and Certification Committee (SAQCC) for the fire industry held its second road show in Gauteng at Killarney Country Club, Glenhove. The road show was preceded by similar events earlier this year in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, George, Durban, Bloemfontein, Middleburg and Rustenburg.

The SAQCC Fire, a legal body appointed and mandated by the Department of Labour (DoL), was formed to establish procedures for the qualification and certification of service and installation technicians, thus creating an environment ensuring safe and high quality standards of excellence in the fire industry.

The road show was divided into two sections: SAQCC Fire Equipment 1475 and SAQCC Fire Detection and Gas Suppression. The panel was convened to address any questions and explain any issues the attendees had with the SACQQ and its processes. It was chaired by vice president of the SAQCC, Duncan Boyes. On the panel was the DoL’s deputy director of mechanical engineering Matlala Sathekge, SABS’s Ronel Liebenberg, the Fire Department’s Hennie Croucamp, SAQCC’s JJ Scholtz and the chairman of SAQCC Matt Kielty.

A point of clarity was made to the floor by Boyes: “SAQCC registers technicians and SABS registers companies.” This was stated, as it appeared there was confusion amongst the attendees.

In answer to various questions, the following statements were made by panel members. To save space we have shortened the responses.

• “The Occupational and Health Safety Act requires that handheld fire equipment must be maintained in accordance with SANS 1475. A registered, competent, trained and experienced person is to carry out the effective reconditioning of portable fire extinguishers in terms of SABS 1475. In addition, that person has to be registered with the registering authority. In terms of standards, there’s only about 50% compliance from the industry from both voluntary and compulsory standards,” said Sathekge.

• “The role of SABS is to set and uphold standards. There are voluntary and compulsory standards. We write standards based on the need and environment in the industry. That is done through our technical committee, but those standards are drawn from the industry,” said Liebenberg.

• “We are out in the field every day and I think the SABS will agree with this. We come in handy in helping to direct what and how standards should be formed as we are an active part of the industry,” said Croucamp.

• “Our responsibility is to make sure that all technicians are registered with us. We then equip and provide them with proper training. That will be achieved only if they cooperate with us,” said Scholtz.

A point on affiliation and registration escalated to the question of SAQCC Fire being seen as an 'old men’s club'.

“That is not the case and never was. Every technician is welcome to register and become part of SAQCC. Our purpose is to register, train, qualify and certify the service and installations done by registered technicians, thus creating an environment ensuring safe and high quality standards of excellence in the fire industry, without sidelining anyone. The ones not present in today’s road show, are the ones not willing to comply with set professional standards in the fire industry,” responded Kielty.

In the Detection and Gas Suppression section, leading issues were sub-standard installations or workmanship, further training, and third-party inspections. The DoL is currently starting a platform for further training, but stresses that all within the chain of equipment or service process are responsible. “All fire technicians have is a licence to carry out a service, but we want to better that. We are in a process of developing a career path for them. We are in consultation with the relevant QCTO, we believe the responsibility with fire detection, and gas suppression services lies with everyone, from the manufacturer to the end-user. And we would support the idea of third-party inspections,” said Sathekge.

Boyes added that, though not applied in South Africa yet, third-party inspections would be something to look at in the future. “This will help curb sub-standard work. On training, a continuous up-skilling process will take place at SAQCC Fire.”

According to Kielty, it is very important to have a body like SAQCC Fire that has “the ability to carry out its mandate”. Without such a body, the DoL will take over the industry. “It is significant to have skilled people from the fire industry doing work in their own industry and reporting back in an informed way to the DoL, rather than having it the other way round,” he said.


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