Accreditation as a Southern Africa Ready-mix Association (Sarma) member can mitigate many of the challenges associated with the lack of laws and specification governing the production of quality concrete, says Sarma director Johan van Wyk.
“It’s significant to get accreditation because there is no law. The Sarma member that gets accreditation is a company that wants to follow the rules and be held to a standard.”
He explains that the auditing and resultant accreditation of a member company reflects the company’s commitment to providing a quality concrete product according to Sarma rules and SANS 878.
The production of cement products in South Africa is governed by laws and compulsory standards, set by independent regulatory organisation the National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications, which specifies a certain quality and strength of the cement produced regardless of the method.
Van Wyk emphasises that this is not the case with concrete – besides health and safety and environmental regulations for processes such as the transport of concrete, there is no law specifying the production of a quality concrete product.
There would be a legal implication only if the client of an infrastructure project specifies a certain concrete quality, which would then be written into a detailed specification required for the project. Van Wyk asserts, however, that, if these specifications are not presented or presented incorrectly, challenges with significant infrastructure projects can arise.
“The accreditation comes into effect when there are no specifications. Once a member and the member’s plant have been accredited, the member is legally compliant. When there are no specifications, there needs to be a legal trail,” Van Wyk claims.
This legal compliance and accreditation are useful in scenarios where incidents of non-compliance can happen or if there are problems with the quality of infrastructure from the resultant ready-mix concrete.
“We should follow the rules beforehand to avoid such incidents. If you follow the rules, however, then, if something goes wrong, there are recourse options,” maintains Van Wyk.
Becoming an accredited Sarma member entails representing the interests of the industry, promoting the use of ready-mix concrete and being subject to quality checks of concrete produced and the materials used in production of ready-mix concrete. Prior to this, companies go through a membership application process. Once an application is accepted, a yearly audit of the company’s plant occurs.
There is one mandatory audit which takes place at a scheduled time every year, as well as an option for an unannounced audit that can happen at any time. Failure of the audit could result in the company losing its accreditation and being suspended, with the option to go through a re-auditing process.
“Members want to be kept on their toes. An unannounced visit is not a whip, but rather a way of communicating and correcting noncompliance,” Van Wyk enthuses.
Independent auditors conduct plant audits. These auditors undergo an evaluation process to vet the competency and certification of the auditor. Auditors then deal directly with a member company that can choose a preferred auditor, from whom Sarma receives the audit results.
The auditing evaluation has five different categories that follow Sarma’s health and safety, quality, transport and environmental standards. A minimum pass mark of 80% must be achieved for all categories, and failing one category would result in failing the audit.
The audit also evaluates the overall quality of concrete products produced, for which a minimum pass mark of 90% is required.
The pass marks are 80% and 90% because of the different ways in which plants operate and produce their concrete products, and not everything being applicable on every plant, adds Van Wyk.
These scores are provided in an overall compliance score and a star rating system, which is based on legal and quality compliance.
Sarma accreditation lasts for a year, based on yearly audits, as concrete production methods also change and improve, Van Wyk stresses. Different plants use different methods to manufacture concrete and, amid a competitive industry, feedback from member companies is considered when audits are reviewed.
Van Wyk argues that the benefits of being a Sarma member – such as accreditation, support in terms of technical advice, partnerships with related institutions and member companies, and lower premiums for insurance policies – outweighs the cost of membership. While accreditation is not the only service the association provides, it is a main focus.
“If a member company’s client is willing to pay more money for the peace of mind that legal compliance and quality provides, a member should want to pay more. Sarma membership is not that expensive and, the bigger a company becomes, the smaller the charge. Sarma members don’t compromise on quality,” he concludes.