Let SANS 721 be a lesson

By Rory Macnamara

Whilst the issue of SANS 721 in particular was a thorn in the side of all parties due to arbitrary decisions being made by the SABS, compounded by poor behaviour of a certain party and ‘interference’ by the parent body of the SABS, SANS 721 should provide the ideal case study on how not to go about drawing up a standard.

Rory mainThe story ran over a number of years, so we will attend to the primary issues of what went wrong in very broad terms and how the standard allowed product into the market that did not provide the quality that is expected in its application — a sacrifice on the altar of profit at the expense of the consumer!

Rudeness, bullying, and disregard for technical committees (industry members who give of their time freely and willingly) and their purpose, and the exclusion of essential official bodies and individuals whose experience outnumbered the entire committee put together, were just part of what occurred during this time.

Rory Macnamara of Plumbing Africa. Credit: Warren Robertson

The failure of SANS 721, in summary, was:

  • Lack of quality and improvement of quality in the products.
  • Disregard for the safety and the health of our people and environment — a fundamental requirement of a standard, particularly a compulsory one.
  • Disregard for the inputs of technically qualified persons and groups.
  • Disregard for the international standards that had shown the need for a particular process to take place.
  • Discounting, in the main, public comments.
  • Imbalance of representation and lack of subject matter experts.
  • Slowness in tackling the independent assessor’s report.

When questioned about the progress of innovation, Plumbing Africa received a deathly no response!

These were just some of the issues that were, simply put, wrong in this case. Another mind-boggling factor was that four technical committees were in agreement that this standard should not go forward (due to the fact that the product crossed a number of technical committees and groups). This shows the undue influence and questionable tactics employed by some to achieve the publication of this ‘political standard’.

Even the Competition Commission has eased off on the complaint of big business not allowing small business entry into the market, simply because the complaint was unjustified and without merit. We await confirmation that this matter has been struck off so to speak. We know that the dti family of companies is not great when it comes to responses!

No one will stop another from participating in an industry, provided they are all on the same level and not driven by profits at the expense of the consumer.

The SABS has a great deal of fence mending to do in the plumbing sector as the plumbing technical committee was treated shoddily and humiliated by the actions of a few, and sadly, the dti needs to do this as well, as they were a part of the problem.

Perhaps going back to the raison d’état of the SABS is a good start — standards, voluntary or made compulsory by a regulation and an Act of parliament, are done for the sole purpose of protecting the safety and the health of the consumer and the environment.

Will there be consequences for the time that this standard was in place? Plumbing Africa certainly hopes so and the consumer deserves such retribution.

Never, never again should such a standard be placed in the market and individuals be subjected to abuse and attack by a few who cared nothing for the fundamental reason for a standard.

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