Shiver me timbers: consumers urged to steer clear of pirate contractors, suppliers

10 July 2019 | Web Article Number: ME201915297

Construction, Civil & Structural Engineering
Quality Assurance

SOUTH Africa’s professional body for the engineered timber construction industry has urged consumers to do their homework before embarking on construction or renovation projects and to enlist the services of registered or accredited contractors.

According to Amanda Obbes, General Manager of the Institute for Timber Construction South Africa (ITC-SA), the body saw a marked upswing in queries and complaints from the public relating to poor workmanship from non-members in the trade in the first quarter of 2019.

“This is a recurring phenomenon and can, for the most part, be attributed to a stodgier economy; tougher times make for an environment in which consumers look to cut costs and many desperate contractors are willing to cut corners to secure work.

“Unfortunately, when consumers reach out to the ITC-SA to assist with recourse to matters of sub-standard workmanship or compliance issues, there is little that can be done, beyond providing advice, to remedy the situation if the contractor in question is not a member of the Institute,” she said.

As a South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) accredited professional body, the ITC-SA is mandated to support high standards in the trade via a two-pronged approach.

“By tackling the issue of quality in the industry, not only by way of supporting registered tradespeople, but by offering the public assurance in their dealings with ITC-SA accredited member contractors, the Institute is a pivotal and reliable safety net for both the trade and consumer in a fluctuating industry,” Obbes said.

All professional members recognised by the ITC-SA must abide by the Institute’s published Code of Conduct as well as its mechanism for reporting and investigating members who are alleged to have contravened this Code.

Shiver me timbers: consumers urged to steer clear of pirate contractors, suppliers

“In trying economic times, it is increasingly common for consumers to be tempted to save money on the construction of a roof, timber home or deck, but this comes at a much higher price in the long run, with much more at stake than just financial burden,” said Obbes.

“Consumers who severely cut costs on building projects will most often have to spend even more money to fix the problems that arise from using sub-standard materials and workmanship. In many cases, the problem cannot be fixed, but rather has to be undone, before correct building or installation can begin. This is not to mention the physical threat to life and valuable possessions posed by non-compliant structures.”

She also stressed the importance of using reputable timber suppliers or merchants whose timber complies with the relevant characteristic values.

“We encourage our members and the industry at large to remain steadfast in selecting and using only compliant structural timber that is certified by either of the only accreditation bodies currently in South Africa: The South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) and South African Technical Auditing Services (SATAS), who certify products in compliance with the relevant standards.”

She said it was expected that local as well as international manufacturers of structural timber destined for the South African market be certified by a South African-based ISO 17065 accredited Product Certification Body, which is also applicable to the neighbouring states like Eswatini (formerly Swaziland) and Zimbabwe.

“We request that all members be aware of the need for compliance with national legislation and to not make use of either locally produced timber or imports that do not comply with the South African standards and requirements.”

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