The Importance of ISO Certification
What the S718 standard means for you.
In Canada, industry standards are in a constant state of update, involving different CAN/ULC SPF task groups made up of manufacturers, certification bodies, and other industry stakeholders that strategically set these rules to ensure safety and efficiency in product use and workplace practices. This directly applies to spray polyurethane foam and its proper application outlined in Canadian standards S705.2-05 (for application) and S705.1-2015 (for materials). However, there is a supplementary standard governing site quality assurance programs (SQAPs) that, while pending an update, provides specific requirements yielding a robust SPF consumer protection program: The CAN ULC-S718-13 (S718). Simply defined, S718 is the “Standard for Site Quality Assurance Program for Spray Polyurethane Foam.” So, what does that entail exactly? According to the Standards Council of Canada, S718 constitutes three specific points:
- This standard outlines requirements for a SQAP for the on-site installation of spray applied polyurethane foam (SPF). As the installation of the material is dependent on the installer, a site quality assurance program is required to provide assurance of compliance to material and installation standards to the property owner, authority having jurisdiction, design professional, or other entity directly involved in the installation of the material.
- This standard outlines the requirements for the supplier, the contractor, and the installer participating in the SQAP, as well as for the inspection body and the certification organization.
- This standard does not purport to address all the health and safety aspects associated with its use. Anyone using this standard has the responsibility to consult the appropriate authorities and to establish health and safety practices, in conjunction with any existing applicable regulatory requirements, prior to its use.
The S718 has been a published standard since 2013. According to Andrew Cole, executive director of The Canadian Urethane Foam Contractors Association (CUFCA), no manufacturer, certification body, or spray foam contractor has been in full compliance with S718 to date. Cole explains that this has not happened because the Canadian Construction Materials Centre (CCMC) has not made the standard mandatory despite having long requested a timeline from SPF manufacturers as to when they will agree to follow S718.
“The intent of the S718 standard is to ensure that all manufacturers are delivering a similar level of certification and field quality assurance,” affirms Cole. “As an industry, we still have some time to get there yet we look forward to the time when all manufacturers see the value in this approach to a field quality assurance program that will deliver strong protection to home end users.”
Site Quality Assurance Programs (SQAPs) and ISO Requirement
Although S718 is technically not enforceable because the CCMC has not made its compliance mandatory as of yet, it is referenced in S705-1 2015 but not in S-705.2 because it didn’t exist in 2005, yet S718 is forecast for reintroduction in a future updated version of S705.2. That is why certain Canadian certified bodies operate their respective SQAPs as if S718 could be enforced tomorrow; so they can maintain their position as providers of high quality materials and advocates of proper application while preparing for upcoming changes to the building code.
SQAPs aim to ensure that building product installers have been properly trained, tested, and evaluated in accordance to the proposed S718 standard, as well as to the manufacturer’s application guidelines, and as required in the evaluation reports issued by the CCMC. Moreover, the SQAPs provide third-party quality assurance to architects, engineers, building officials, and building owners that the SPF is being properly installed.
However, SQAPs must be – for a lack of a better word – legit. Entwined with SQAPs that may follow the proposed S718 standard is the need for the International Organization for Standardization/International Electrotechnical Commission’s latest requirement – the ISO/IEC 17024:2012 (ISO 17024) – which is an internationally standardized conformity assessment specifying criteria for the operation of a Personnel Certification Body. In other words, to be aligned with current industry standards revolving around S718 pending its update, the SQAP requires ISO 17024 accreditation of its Certification Body. In this facet, companies that offer SQAPs such as Morrison Hershfield, CUFCA, Building Professionals, and Urethane Foam Consultants remain ahead of the curve because they claim they are implementing the new ISO requirement.
“The adoption of the ISO 17024 accreditation was an effort to raise the bar on training and certification of licensed installers,” says Cole. “We have a wide range of training programs; some manufacturers deliver a training program in half a day while others have a four-day program.”
Morrison Hershfield Quality Assurance Program (MHQAP) received accreditation by International Accreditation Service (IAS) under ISO 17024 on May 17, 2016.
“The ISO accreditation is a significant milestone in our program and provides benefits to all our stakeholders including SPF manufacturers, contractors, and installers,” says MHQAP’s Program Manager David André. “The SPF installer certification process is now more reliable, fair, and consistent across the board.”
THE IMPACT OF ISO 17024 ON SPRAY FOAM CONTRACTORS
The S718 is currently under review and it is being updated to meet the needs of the SPF industry. Therefore, certification bodies that become ISO-certified will more than likely have a stricter adherence to S718 once it becomes mandatory. What this will mean to the installers of spray foam contracting companies is a significant raising of the bar of SQAPs when it’s time to renew their certification. The certification and recertification process will be challenging, complete with examination that will present tough, statistical queries that validate whether the candidate is knowledgeable and ready to install SPF vs. an ill-equipped candidate. In other words, SPF contractors and installers will have to adequately prepare themselves before they are certified. Cole explains that certification schemes are required to confirm knowledge skills and abilities as defined in the standard, and as such, the testing must have both a written examination and a hands-on testing method.
“The importance of the ISO 17024 designation is that the process of installer certification is independent from manufacturer-delivered training programs,” says Cole. “The term ‘licensed installer’ or ‘certified installer’ is often misused by manufacturers and the ISO accreditation will ensure that these designations are actually true and provide alignment in the delivery of the certification bodies’ respective services to their clients through their SQAPs.”
In 2017, Morrison Hershfield will enforce the ISO 17024 credential to all the installers who apply for recertification within their SQAP, as well as SPF installers that transition from another certification body.
“Installers that are already certified with MHQAP who do not meet the new ISO standard will still be considered certified and accordingly can install product,” says André. “However, they will need to meet the new ISO standard upon recertification. This will allow them some time to transition to the new higher standards in the industry. For installers that are currently with other certification bodies, the process is more complex.”
Without a specific date as to when the S718 updates will be completed, the Canadian spray foam industry strives to work together to establish a consensus among manufacturers, certification bodies, and SPF contractors to advance this standard – the ISO 17024 adoption is a giant step in that direction. If enforced by the CCMC, S718 will be critical in ensuring consumer protection that will help the Canadian SPF industry provide peace of mind to those looking to specify SPF projects in the future.
For more information on Canadian SQAPs, please visit:
Morrison Hershfield’s Quality Assurance Program
Canadian Urethane Foam Contractors Association Inc.
Urethane Foam Consultants’ SQAP Page
Photos courtesy of BASF