Coatings Industry concerned by the ‘disappearance’ of SABS

The SABS has all but disappeared, says SAPMA executive director, Deryck Spence

The coatings industry is hugely concerned about the lack of cooperation it is receiving from the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS), says Deryck Spence, executive director of the SA Paint Manufacturing Association (SAPMA).

“In fact, the coatings industry is beginning to question if the SABS is still an active guardian and promoter of quality standards in this country – or even operating at all in key areas. There have been increasing signs of total apathy and alarming disinterest in the past year based on our dealings – or attempts at dealing – with the Bureau,” Spence laments.

He says the SABS Standards Division describes itself as the only recognised national institution for the development, maintenance and promotion of South African National Standards (SANS) which form the basis for all the other SABS service offerings such as testing and certification. “But we have not seen signs of this happening at the moment. The SABS also is the only government body that can provide the specifications for quality management systems and test methods for the coatings industry. More importantly, the industry is totally dependent on SABS marks of approval for its products – not only from a general consumer point of view but also because the Department of Public Works simply will not award tenders to products that do not carry SABS marks of approval.

“So this precludes many of our members from bidding for lucrative government projects at a time when the pickings are lean. Yet all SAPMA approaches and appeals to the SABS have drawn no response, and the SABS testing laboratories would appear to be non-operational,” Spence says.

“The lack of cooperation from the SABS is even more damaging to the coatings industry in view of the fact that the government’s Department of Health is working towards the removal of lead for road marking paint while the SABS mark of approval Number 731 continues to approve the use of leaded paint for roads.  SABS testing and marks of approval are also vitally needed for a variety of VOC-free products SAPMA members have launched to meet stringent environmental demands from the market. Consequently, because of the total lack of assistance and service from the SABS, many of our members have had to turn to independent laboratories to test VOC levels in their new products. But the SABS mark is still essential for any government contract.”

Spence says SAPMA and its Technical Committee will continue to try and get some response from the SABS but are not optimistic as it is believed that the coatings sector is not the only industry who are being thwarted by what he calls the virtual “disappearance of the SABS”.