The South African Paint Manufacturing Association (Sapma) lodged its strongest objection to government’s continuous condemnation of the paint industry for producing leaded paints, while still neglecting the governmental prosecution of offenders Sapma has been pleading for, the association announced in April.
Addressing a Department of Labour (DoL) Health Accord in Pretoria, in November, Sapma executive director Deryck Spence said: “The paint industry will continue to follow its Code of Conduct but we want – no, we demand – cooperation from government to assist us in enforcing the existing legislation against offenders. We object to constantly being vilified for producing leaded paint and reading in the press that our industry is causing ‘poison to drip from walls’ – without government keeping its promises to prosecute offenders.”
Spence repeated his plea to government to ‘name and shame’ offenders, and take legal action against any party – whether a Sapma member or not – who makes or sells paint with illegally high leaded content.
“Sapma can coordinate our members – who represent a sizable proportion of the paint industry – but we cannot eliminate the use of lead in the industry without the assistance and cooperation of the appropriate government departments. We again confirm that we are committed to continue to endorse the Safety Accord that we willingly signed recently, but the responsibility of government has to be fulfilled in making sure that the legislation – in this case, the Hazardous Substance Act – be monitored and implemented to the point of naming and prosecuting offenders, even if it means the prosecution of Sapma members. That is the only way we are going to succeed in eliminating lead in paint.
“There is no sense in government conducting dozens of tests and investigating numerous cases of breaches of the Act unless the offenders are not only identified but also prosecuted,” Spence told the meeting.
He said Sapma had also asked government to conduct an investigation into the supply and use of methanol in products sold to the public. “The commonly used do-it-yourself product, lacquer thinners, sometimes contains up to 32% methanol which is a poison that can lead to death if unwittingly consumed by a child. The use of methanol in thinners is favoured because it is cheaper than safer alternatives. Yet again, this instance shows there has been absolutely no action from government.”
Spence said Sapma was now fed up over promises of action by government, which fail to materialise, while governmental accusations against the paint industry continue relentlessly.
The meeting subsequently decided that the DoL would arrange a special meeting to strategise a way forward. The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), represented at the meeting by its policy coordinator: occupational health, safety and the environment, Jacqueline Bodibe, requested that Cosatu be included in this proposed meeting.
Training Compliance Imminent
Paint contractors who continue to employ untrained applicators, producing substandard work, should take note that government regulations calling for Certificates of Compliance, issued by a coatings industry controlling body, could be imminent, Spence warns, adding that he is continuously appalled at the apathy shown by paint contractors towards the training of their staff.
“But there’s a wake-up call coming for these contractors. The concept of Certificates of Compliance is increasingly being favoured by government. The plumbing industry, for example, recently voluntarily introduced rulings to the effect that once a plumbing job has been completed by a registered Plumbing Industry Registration Board (PIRB) plumber, a PIRB Plumbing Certificate of Compliance for such a project is issued. As part of the process of obtaining this Certificate of Compliance, the work is vetted through an external third party auditing process. I strongly believe that the paint contracting industry should consider introducing a similar control system – or face being forced to do so if they want to handle governmental projects,” Spence states.
He recently attended a government workshop at which it was already strongly hinted that when governmental Strategic Integrated Projects (Sips) were put out to tender, all contractors or subcontractors involved would have to provide evidence of training and skills of workers before their tenders would even be considered.
Spence says the situation could easily be remedied if paint contractors send their staff to be trained at Sapma’s Coatings Industry Centre of Excellence where, after training, the painters would receive accreditation in the form of a Sapma Certificate of Competence. “It is very likely that government will in future insist that Sips contracts be awarded only to painters who hold such accreditation. Government is well aware of the high volumes of consumer complaints in media columns and on websites about the lack of skills shown by paint contractors.
“Building contractors, consultants and specifiers, therefore, should know that their choice of paint subcontractor for building projects might soon be determined by proven skills levels,” he adds.
Sapma’s intensive applicator training offered at the Centre of Excellence consists of six five-day modules. On completion of the first five modules, a Sapma Certificate of Competence is awarded and a Chemical Industry Education and Training Authority CEO Statement of Results is issued. After completing the sixth and final module, the learner will receive a Sapma Skills Qualification for Basic Coatings applicator certificate.