According to the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS), there are a number of manufacturers irresponsibly using SABS test reports as evidence that their products are ‘SABS Approved’, and it is important for consumers to understand that ‘SABS Approved’ can only be claimed by a manufacturer if the products were actually certified by the SABS. The upshot is, a test report does not provide the same assurance as a full certification.

The SABS conducts a range of tests against South African National Standards (SANS), as well as customer specific requirements and/or testing against compulsory specifications that may be issued for certain product categories.

The SABS offers certification schemes for both products and/or systems that comply with the SANS or a relevant Mark scheme/systems scheme. Additionally, many products undergo more frequent testing and conformity assessments to earn their status which allows them to use the ‘SABS Approved’ mark on their product.

Jodi Scholtz, Lead Administrator of the SABS, explains, “The SABS is aware that there are numerous manufacturers in possession of SABS test reports which they use as evidence that their products are ‘SABS Approved,’ and it is important for consumers to understand that ‘SABS Approved’ can only be claimed by a manufacturer if the products were actually certified by the SABS. The SABS laboratory test report is a report of the performance of that product against requirements of a standard or other client-specific requirements, and this does not indicate that the product is ‘SABS Approved’ in any way. An SABS permit to apply the Certification Mark is a more comprehensive statement of quality assurance of the product or system.”

Testing is just one of the requirements in the complete SABS certification process.

 Beyond testing

The testing of products and systems is essential to determine whether performance meets specified requirements of the standard, and this is done in controlled and simulated environments. Test reports provide information about a product at the time of testing and are limited to the very sample tested. Test reports do not imply that all the same/ similar products also comply or would pass the testing requirements.

Conformity assessment testing assists manufacturers during their product development phases to ensure that relevant modifications or enhancements can be made to meet specified criteria as well as to boost the quality of the product. Retailers and consumers are more likely to sell and buy goods and services that have been tested and have successfully passed testing to SANS or specific requirements.

Why testing doesn’t provide the same assurance as certification

There are a number of reasons for this, including:

  • A golden sample scenario, wherein a manufacturer produces a high-quality product with the intent of passing required testing, and once a test report is obtained then produces inferior products or changes the ingredients of the product in order to make the products cheaper to manufacture.
  • Poor manufacturing conditions, while a product sample may be successfully tested for performance, there is also no assurance that the quality of future products will be the same as that of the sample submitted for testing.
  • Partial testing, especially with large products/equipment.  It is not feasible to subject large products or products that are customised to full performance testing such as mining equipment, cars or transformers or in instances where the manufacturer is developing a product and is interested in a specific parameter, they would normally approach the SABS laboratories for testing of only the parameters of interest.
  • Insufficient testing such as with fast moving consumer goods, where several batches of products are manufactured. Given the nature of the industry, once-off testing is insufficient to provide the relevant assurance that all the products in the batch or subsequent batches are made to the same quality as the samples that successfully passed a test.

“An SABS test report reflects the results of specific conditions for a particular sample only and it is irresponsible for a manufacturer to claim that an SABS test report is an endorsement of the quality of the product.  In cases where retailers only require test reports in order to sell products, this is usually accompanied by frequent testing and surveillance requests. Testing is required, however certification of products and management systems is a more reliable and comprehensive measure of quality,” explains Scholtz.

 SABS recommends certification

 “The SABS Mark Scheme, commonly referred to as ‘SABS Approved’, is a certification scheme that provides confidence in the quality of the products and the production processes to manufacture the product. Samples are collected from a production facility and retail outlets (where relevant), over different periods in a three-year cycle by the SABS to ensure that quality products are produced all the time. Samples are collected independently and unscheduled inspections at facilities are done to add to the assurance of quality products being produced,” says Scholtz.

SANS/ISO 9001, SANS/ISO 14001, and SANS/ISO 45001

Clients need to specifically apply for certification at the SABS. Should a client be successful in obtaining a permit to apply the ‘SABS Approved’ trademark to their products, the assessment of the production facilities will be done in accordance with the requirements of SANS/ISO 9001: quality management systems.

In cases where products are considered high risk, for example where raw materials used in the production process are unstable or where there is a high consumer danger, the SABS works with the customer and regulatory authorities to impose and implement additional consumer safety measures such as:

  • Batch testing of every batch of products;
  • Unannounced inspection services, such as in hazardous waste disposal, number plate manufacturing;
  • Additional certification of management systems such as  SANS/ISO 14001 – Environmental Management System certification to ensure that all environmental aspects and impacts are being identified and managed; SANS/ISO 9001 to ensure quality management throughout the operations and SANS/ISO 45001 – Occupational Health and Safety Management System (OHS) certification, where all related hazards and risks shall be identified to improve the occupational health & safety of all persons affected by the company’s activities;
  • The development of industry proficiency schemes to enable the proactive management of quality related issues. For example, SABS spearheads a cement proficiency scheme in which the test results of the various cement products are discussed by the industry which includes clients, regulators, consumer associations and industry bodies.

To be noted: