GAMAzine: A Few Good Men And Women Are Needed

July 25, 2005
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GAMA encourages contractors, technicians, and installers to come to the table of the standards-development committees. Contractor involvement is always welcomed by committee members. GAMA manufacturer members, for instance, actively participate on various committees involving safety standards for gas and oil appliances.
Puzzled by the standards-making process? Cannot seem to piece together how a certain gas appliance design requirement or installation code specification ever became reality?

You are not alone. Then again, the Gas Appliance Manufacturers Association (GAMA) believes it's about time contractors, technicians, and installers come off the sidelines and begin to actively participate in the various standards-development committees available in the HVACR industry. Frank Stanonik, chief technical advisor for GAMA, emphasized the need for input from this segment of the appliance industry.

"At this stage, we just need to get more involvement from the trade," he said. "We need to get installers and service technicians to be a part of the process.

"We are very strong believers in supporting consensus standards, but we could use more perspective from the field. That's what contractors can bring to the table: actual hands-on experience from working on these appliances. It's needed."

Wanted: Field Experience

In years past, Stanonik said you could get field information from utility personnel. Back then, many utilities had large and active service departments.

"Now, for the most part, utilities only distribute gas and provide emergency services," he said. "They don't have the field people and no longer provide that perspective to the standards-making process - and that's what we could use on these committees. Contractors are now the main voice of ‘field experience.'"

GAMA's manufacturer members actively participate on various committees involving safety standards for gas and oil appliances, including the Z21/83 Committee, which is accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). This committee develops safety standards for gas appliances and controls.

GAMA's members are also involved in some of the standards developed by Underwriters Laboratories Inc. (UL), and the installation code activities of the American Gas Association (AGA) and National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

For instance, GAMA members participated actively in the development of the ANSI Z21.10.1-2001 safety standard, which covers gas-fired residential storage water heaters of 75,000 Btu or less. It requires that the water heater be designed so that it "shall not ignite flammable vapors outside the water heater created by the spilling of ... gasoline onto the floor."

"If you are a plumber and do not understand how such a standard could have evolved, the only way to learn about such changes as they are being considered is to get involved," offered Stanonik. "All proposed standards changes are available for review and comment. Participation can be as simple as taking some time to review the changes and make comments as needed. The more interests that participate, the better."

Yes, Strong On Codes...

For the most part, contractors are certainly involved in code development activities. Tom Moore, owner of Climate Control Inc., Leesburg, Ind., knows the value of participating on codes committees. He currently serves as national secretary with the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors - National AssociationÓ(PHCC).

"Professional plumbing-heating-cooling contractors are committed to protecting the environment and the health, safety, and comfort of society," said Moore. "To more effectively carry out this role, members of the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors - National Association represent their fellow contractors on a number of national committees that establish codes and standards.

"For example, PHCC administers the National Standard Plumbing Code, and PHCC contractors are members of the bodies that oversee the Uniform Plumbing Code, the International Plumbing Code, and the National Fuel Gas Code. PHCC considers it essential that contractors are an integral part of the code and standards process."

Surumi Hudacsko, technical services engineer for the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA), echoed the sentiments of Moore and Stanonik.

"Codes and standards have a direct and dramatic impact on all aspects of a contractor's business," said Hudacsko. "From the initial design of a system to the final inspection, an understanding of codes, as well as code processes, is vital. Contractors who serve on code committees are involved in the behind-the-scenes work that goes into developing and changing a particular code. As members of a code committee, contractors achieve a fuller understanding of the codes and standards that they must legally follow, are exposed to and are involved in inevitable code changes much sooner, and are better able to incorporate these changes into their business practices."

From Hudacsko's perspective, a contractor can use code knowledge as a marketing tool, assuring building owners and other clients that safety, performance, and efficiency standards are adhered to. He believes such contractors are aware of code-related pitfalls and enhance their image in the industry as reputable contractors.

"A number of contractors understand the benefits of being involved in codes and standards committees and serve in various capacities in their states and local jurisdictions," he added. "ACCA is actively involved in encouraging more contractors to become more involved in these code processes and activities, to ultimately reap the benefits that will accompany their involvement. Contractors continue to respond well in this area as they realize more and more that their voices and votes do matter and they can effectively channel the course taken by codes and standards that will affect them in the future."

...But Maybe Weak On Standards?

GAMA and Stanonik applaud contractors and contractor associations that are heavily involved in the codes-making process. Still, GAMA seeks more contractor and contractor association involvement in the development of gas and oil appliance safety standards. A standard is a document that specifies minimum requirements for design, construction, and performance of the product. The models of various products are then evaluated against these standards by certification agencies like CSA International, Underwriters Laboratories, or Intertek Testing Services.

Stanonik said it is understandable that contractors are involved in code activities since the codes address how appliances and various associated systems - plumbing, gas piping, venting, and ducting - are installed. These codes directly relate to the contractors' work, but having contractors and techs on the standards committees would be beneficial, too.

"We believe contractors also should be interested in the requirements of the appliance design that are specified by the equipment standards," said Stanonik. "The installers and service technicians can be a significant source of feedback on the real-world effectiveness of the various safety requirements and tests specified in the standards."

In a nutshell, the standards-making process involves several steps:

1. A proposal for a standard's change is submitted to the appropriate committee. Proposals to revise a standard can be made by anyone.

2. The proposal is reviewed by the committee or a technical advisory group (TAG) that reports to the committee.

3. All proposed standards revisions recommended by a committee or one of its TAGs are distributed for public review and comment. Any member of the public may participate in this review and submit comments.

4. Comments submitted during the public review are considered, responded to, and, if appropriate, incorporated into the draft standard revision.

5. Finally, the committee takes final action to adopt the proposed standard's revision. The committee is a consensus body (a voting group) that includes representatives from materially affected and interested parties.

Generally speaking, the major need of these committees is to find active participants. Committee members are responsible for developing standards. In GAMA's case, its members largely work with the Z21/83 Committee and CSA America, which manages the Z21/83 Committee and its 40-plus TAGs, which develop and maintain safety and design standards for gas appliances and related accessories marketed in the United States and Canada. These standards cover products such as central heating, water heating, room heaters, and cooking appliances, which are fueled by propane or natural gas. They also apply to controls and accessories used on those appliances.

To get involved in the development of gas appliance and control safety standards, contact CSA America (www.csa-america.org; 216-524-4990). To get involved in the development of oil appliance safety standards, contact Underwriters Laboratories (www.ul.com; 847-272-8800).

Sidebar: GAMA Supports Use Of CO Alarms, Smoke Detectors

The Gas Appliance Manufacturers Association (GAMA) assists its members in addressing a variety of issues, but no issue is more important to the association than public safety.

GAMA urges contractors and consumers to pay close attention to manufacturers' instructions and local codes to ensure that gas appliances are installed correctly and are properly used and maintained. GAMA's new video, "Venting Done Right," is the latest example of its safety education efforts. GAMA also encourages homeowners to have their gas heating equipment inspected annually by a licensed professional.

GAMA supports efforts to reduce carbon monoxide (CO) poisonings through public education on good safety practices, including the use of carbon monoxide alarms in the home. GAMA also supports the efforts of the CO alarm industry to continue to improve the accuracy and reliability of CO alarms.

Gas appliances are not the only potential source of CO in the home. Other potential sources of CO include barbecue grills, portable generators, and automobiles parked in attached garages. GAMA, therefore, advocates the use of CO alarms and smoke detectors in all residences.

Publication date: 07/25/2005

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