Laboratory audits available for quarries
Increasing requirements for certified quality aggregates has led the Aggregate and Sand Producers Association of Southern Africa (ASPASA) to introduce its own guidelines and auditing systems to ensure testing of aggregates and crushed granular materials is done in adherence to South African National Standards (SANS) 3001 AG and GR series test methods.
This is indeed good news for the construction sector as this will further enhance the inherent quality of the full range of concrete, plasters and screeds.
In future, quarries which are members of ASPASA will have an option to participate in an annual audit designed to measure compliance of testing facilities including their apparatus calibration and personnel competence against an abridged ISO 17025 format, to assist in ensuring the correct classification of products. Over time, as their systems improve, they can opt to obtain accreditation through South African National Accreditation System (SANAS) for ISO/IEC 17025 – General requirements for the competence of testing and calibration laboratories.
According to Barry Pearce, chairman of ASPASA’s technical committee, the audits compliment the association’s well established environmental, as well as health and safety audit systems, which have contributed to the association’s recognition internationally as a leader in these fields.
“Now, the idea is to help ASPASA’s members to produce better graded products that are tested consistently to meet the specifications of their clients as well as national standards – where required. It entails the inspection of the laboratory including the testing apparatus and the verification of procedures.
“The audits will be simple but thorough and will leave the quarry in no doubt as to what is required. With this in place producers can confidently supply their products without fear of material rejections in future, provided that the necessary procedures are followed.
“It will also be tailored to the requirements of individual quarries which may range in size from a small family-owned quarry to large multi-national concerns producing aggregates and crushed granular material for multiple uses in different markets,” says Pearce.
He adds it is a fallacy that only large quarries can afford to have in-house laboratories. At the cost of a set of sieves, a flakiness gauge plate, some scales, a drying oven and containers, any quarry can setup the required tests to meet ISO 17025 requirements. Management systems can then be introduced at varying levels of detail depending on quarry’s requirements.
Pearce concludes that the construction and civils industry has long been working towards a more accurate system of materials procurement and the new ASPASA audits will go a long way to meeting and exceeding these industries requirements as well as improving the image of ASPASA and its members. The introduction of the technical audits is expected to reduce the rate of material rejection once delivered to site which is expected to easily offset the cost of compliance. He added the association would also look at participating in the National Laboratory Association – South Africa (NLA-SA) National Proficiency Testing Scheme (PTS) to assist in comparing results between the commercial facilities and ASPASA members to further reduce the disparities in the results and material rejections once the material has been delivered to site. Pienaar says that’s once the aggregate laboratories have been taken to a higher level, the experts with the help of Pearce could expand this focus area to the other members in the surface mines who are members of ASPASA, such as salt, silica and clay.