KINGSTON, ON, Canada — People can’t blame Bob McMullen if he sticks out his chest a little more these days. The owner of Haven Home Comfort Inc./ClimateCare in Kingston is the first hvac contractor in the province to be certified under the “Contractor Quality Assessment Program.”

This voluntary program is a new initiative by Ontario’s Technical Standards and Safety Authority (TSSA) to raise quality standards in the hvac industry. TSSA is an independent, non-government, not-for-profit organization mandated to deliver specific public safety programs and services under the Ontario Safety and Consumer Statutes Administration Act.

Launched in 1997, the TSSA is the sole authority responsible for administering and enforcing seven of Ontario’s public safety acts. The organization had launched a pilot project to raise the standard of hvac contractors in Ontario.

Home Haven had to pass several inspections by TSSA to qualify for the certification. These include:

  • Examination of the company staff to ensure that they have the necessary licensing, insurance, and expertise for hvac installations;
  • Random inspections on current and past installations to evaluate the company’s overall operation;
  • Scrutiny to see if proper records are maintained regarding what equipment was installed, who installed it, and if the proper permits were obtained;
  • Examinations of jobsites to verify safety equipment use, proper tools, and that equipment installed conforms to code requirements; and
  • Talks with customers to verify their satisfaction with the work performed.

After the inspections are completed, TSSA discusses the results with the contractor and passes along any recommendations for improvement.

McMullen, a ClimateCare member since 1994, has been an advocate of tougher industry standards. He thinks his association with Climate-Care, a group of independent Ontario contractors devoted to excellent service performed by certified technicians, has helped in his commitment to safety and excellence.

“The [certification] process is very rigorous but it sure was worthwhile,” McMullen said. “Now I am able to provide additional assurance to my customers that the work performed by our team is of the highest quality and it is endorsed by both ClimateCare and the independent inspection authority.”

Home Haven, a residential contractor with field technicians, has developed a good working relationship with TSSA. McMullen thinks the spot inspections also create a higher level of worker professionalism.

“It helps with the crew’s work ethic,” he said, “because they know someone else is looking over their shoulder, too.

“The inspectors have become friends with our installers and our guys feel that they [TSSA] are the good guys. It also makes our guys very safety-conscious.”

The certification is too new to begin evaluation, but McMullen already sees the advantages. “We use it in our marketing to the homeowners, letting them know about our certification.

“We believe that certification puts us above our competition.”

Sidebar: Quality assessment program inspects residential contractors

The Technical Standards and Safety Authority (TSSA) introduced a new program designed to “promote greater public awareness of the high standard of work conducted by Ontario’s fuels contractors and their staff.”

The Contractor Quality Assessment Program is a program developed through stakeholder consultation involving both TSSA’s Fuels Safety Division and members of the contractor client group. Successful completion of the program demonstrates that the contractor’s skills, workmanship, and policies exceed provincial standards.

According to Sandra Cooke, TSSA operations manager, the contractors who are certified through the program will have some distinct advantages.

“This [certification] shows that contractors are more responsive to customers’ needs,” she said. “Contractors will also have the benefit of TSSA’s code and regulation training.”

The program consists of a pre-assessment (contractor’s staff qualifications, equipment, and human resources policies), the inspector’s assessment of current and previous work, a regulatory compliance informational session, and a final report.

This is a continuous program with an initial assessment and annual reassessments. The associated costs are quoted to the client and agreed upon before program initiation.

Contractors successfully completing the program will be designated as TSSA Quality Assessed and will receive the following benefits:

  • Demonstration and recognition that the contractor’s services exceed provincial and industry standards;
  • The right to use the TSSA logo in promoting their business;
  • Promotion of the contractor’s company on TSSA’s Web site;
  • A wooden wall plaque and certificate identifying the contractor’s status as Quality Assessed; and
  • 50 TSSA pressure tags.

The Contractor Quality Assessment Program was recently field tested in Kingston, ON, Canada. Ten contractors initially signed up for the program.

“We are currently evaluating the program,” said Cooke. “We will find out if this provides a competitive edge. We already know that we are raising the bar [for customer service].”

Sidebar: Energy act violator feels TSSA's wrath

RICHMOND HILL, ON, Canada — An hvac contractor here in Richmond Hill was recently found guilty of charges brought by the Technical Standards and Safety Authority’s (TSSA’s) Fuels Safety Division and ordered to pay $11,000 in fines.

Stefan Wesolowski and his company, VMS Air Systems Ltd., were convicted in Newmarket Provincial Court last fall of four charges under the province’s Energy Act, one of seven Ontario public safety acts enforced by the TSSA.

The fines included:

  • $1,000 for installing an unapproved furnace (Wesolowski);
  • $5,000 for installing an unapproved furnace (VMS);
  • $3,000 for not being licensed with TSSA to perform furnace installation work (Wesolowski); and
  • $2,000 for failing to register as a contractor with TSSA (VMS).

TSSA said customer complaints led to the charges. It was determined that Wesolowski installed unapproved, imported furnaces from the United States in two Newmarket-area homes.

The homeowners were unaware that Wesolowski was installing unapproved furnaces, and that he was neither registered nor licensed as required by the Energy Act.