ASPIRE is a quarterly magazine published by PCI in cooperation with the associations of the National Concrete Bridge Council. The editorial content focuses on the latest technology and key issues in the Concrete Bridge Industry.
Issue link: http://www.aspiremagazinebyengineers.com/i/768999
PARTNER SPOTLIGHT Certification standards vary for materials and techniques, requiring designers to look beneath the surface to be assured they are getting what they expect by Craig A. Shutt To help ensure products and materials will meet the standards of quality and precision they require, designers often look to industry certification programs to provide reassurance. But how stringent are certification bodies and do they provide the assurances the designers expect? The Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute (PCI) recently addressed these questions by going through the process to receive accreditation from the International Accreditation Service (IAS) for the PCI quality assurance manuals and the procedures that PCIcertified plants use to produce precast concrete products. IAS has accredited PCI’s Plant Certification Program, which now is managed in accordance with IAS Accreditation Criteria (AC) 477 and ISO/ IEC 17021, Conformity Assessment– Requirements for Bodies Providing Audits and Certification of Management Systems. According to the IAS website, “IAS provides objective evidence that an organization operates at the highest level of ethical, legal, and technical standards.” The group is a subsidiary of the International Code Council (ICC), which develops the building, energy, fire, mechanical, plumbing, and other codes used by most U.S. municipalities. The three driving tenets of the accreditation are: competency, confidentiality, and impartiality. IAS is a nonprofit, public-benefit corporation providing accreditation services since 1975. As a subsidiary of ICC, it accredits a range of companies and organizations, including governmental entities, commercial businesses, and professional associations. It acts like a registrar and has more than 900 accredited entities worldwide. IAS accreditation is based on recognized national and international standards that ensure domestic and global acceptance of its accreditations. Who Certifies the Certifiers? In such certification programs, the credibility of the certifying body is critical. Bridge engineers may not be as familiar with building-component certifying bodies such as IAS and ICC, and thus may require assurances that these bodies provide the same rigors for transportation material as they do in the building arena. For these assurances, engineers turn to the International Organization of Standardization (ISO). The key element in determining an equivalency is to find a base of standards recognized by each industry to ensure they are rigorous on the significant required points. In the case of IAS, the organization follows all standards and requirements laid out by ISO supported by American National Standards accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). It is important to note that PCI is an ANSIaccredited standards developer. This base of standards allows IAS certification to be applied to materials in accordance with those recognized certification authorities. Some states provide this equivalency in their programs. The Florida Building Commission, for instance, through its Florida Administrative Code Rule 9B-72, allows products to be deemed certified only if the products’ certification agency is “accredited by ANSI [to] meet the requirements of ISO/IEC Guide 65: General Requirements for Bodies Operating Product Certification Systems or other standard certified as equivalent.” Rule 9B-72 also requires qualityassurance agencies to annually audit the manufacturer’s quality-assurance program through in-plant visits, product inspections at sites or distribution facilities, or testing of production-line samples. These elements are part of the IAS program, based on American National Standards, and are part of the PCI program. By and large, the PCI quality-assurance program already provided these elements. With slight modification, these elements were brought into conformity with IAS and ISO requirements and certifying standards overall, which is a detailed procress requiring significant documentation and added training and assessment activities. “Our goal in attaining IAS accreditation was to ensure all processes associated with PCI’s certified quality-management system fall in line with internationally accepted best practices and to ensure continuous improvement of the PCI