I recently attended a standards committee meeting where the subject of certification was raised. The discussion related to apparent confusion in the marketplace that the only acceptable certification mark is the mark owned by the organization that developed the standard.
Although standards developers such as NSF International (NSF), Underwriters Laboratory (UL) and the American Society of Sanitary Engineering (ASSE), to name a few, offer third-party certification and listing of products to the standards they develop, I was surprised to hear that there is still a misunderstanding in the marketplace that manufacturers can only obtain certification from the standards writer. The two functions of standards development and product certification are distinct and not linked.
Why is this topic important? If you are distributing products and those products are certified by one of the accredited certifiers that did not develop the standard for those products, the local code officials should accept the certification.
Let’s look at some basic definitions. Here are excerpts from definitions provided in two nationally recognized model plumbing codes that are important in understanding the concepts of certification:
International Plumbing Code (2018)i
Third-Party Certified – …. Assertion of certification is in the form of identification in accordance with the requirements of the third-party certification agency.
Third-Party Certification Agency –
an approved agency …
Approved – acceptable to the code official.
Uniform Plumbing Code (2018) ii
Approved Testing Agency – an organization … approved by the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ).
Listing Agency (Third-party certified) – an agency accredited by an independent and authoritative conformity assessment body …
Based on the above, two questions probably come to mind: 1) How does the AHJ determine acceptability; and 2) What organization provides “accreditation?” The answer to both questions is the AHJ looks to the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) to accredit third-party certifiers.
ANSI is a long-standing non-governmental organization that develops national procedures and criteria that define the minimum requirements for organizations that develop national standards and organizations that provide certification services. ANSI provides a listing of all certification bodies that have been accredited on the ANSI website and indicates the scope of certification each body is accredited. As an example, my message is for you to understand there are many viable and credible certification organizations in the marketplace that have obtained ANSI accreditation for product standards referenced in the national model codes, and it is not only the standards developer which has the right to certify products to the standards they develop.
I would like to hear from you. This article only skims the surface of issues related to the U.S. codes/standards scheme and the U.S. conformity assessment scheme. If you would like to read more about this subject please let me know by contacting me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
i The International Codes are developed by the International Code Council and free online access to the model codes is available at https://codes.iccsafe.org/category/I-Codes and clicking on the “free view” tab under the specific code graphic.
ii The Uniform Codes are developed by the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO) and free online access to the model codes is available at http://www.iapmo.org/Pages/ReadUniformCodesOnline.aspx