09 September 2014

If you work in fire safety you will probably have heard of Third Party Certification (TPC) but you may not be too sure what it is. Even if you work for a certificated company, you might not be sure what the benefit is to you or your company. If this sounds like you, read on…

What is TPC?

It is, in essence, a consumer protection scheme. It enables you, the supplier and certificated company, to provide proof that your company is competent.

TPC means that an independent expert, the third party, has assessed your business and found that it has met certain standards. These standards usually relate to technical aspects of the business activities, but may also relate to other aspects of the business such as ethical and environmental qualities.

How does getting certificated benefit your business?

Many customers know little about how fire threatens their people and their business or what their legal obligations are. Many are unaware that they have a duty to employ ‘competent persons’ and just how easy it is to set up a business in the fire safety industry. As every good salesperson knows, educating the client as to their problems and the solutions you can offer is a major step towards closing a deal. If you are a certificated company, you can clearly prove your competence and differentiate yourself from much of the competition.

Customers who are aware of fire safety and the legal issues, as well as the value of TPC, will seek out those suppliers who are certificated, often via the scheme operator or certification body’s website. Newly certificated companies are often surprised when they get enquiries from customers they were not pursuing or even aware of. Additional sales at very little cost are always welcome.

Customers who appreciate the value of TPC will generally be aware that doing the job right may cost more and should be prepared to pay a premium for it. By the same token, eliminating cut price competition means profit margins are likely to be protected.

How does TPC work?

A Third Party Certification Body (or CB for short) assesses the qualities of your company by comparing it with the requirements of a particular scheme. If your business meets these standards, then it is issued with a certificate detailing the scope of your certification. This process is called an Audit and is carried out when your organisation is first certificated and then periodically (typically every six months) to maintain the certificate.

Your company (the Certificated Organisation) is permitted to claim compliance with the scheme, display copies of your certificate and, in most cases, display the logos of the scheme and the CB.

In the UK, anyone can write a scheme document and anyone can set up a CB. For TPC to have value to both you and to the end user, the CB and the scheme must have a high degree of credibility.

In the UK, the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) validates the authority of the CB. It is an internationally recognised organisation appointed by the government to accredit certification bodies and the schemes they deliver. Therefore, only those accredited by UKAS have proven credibility.

The schemes are written and administered by recognised authorities. These include standard setting bodies such as British Standards Institution (BSI), CBs such as the Loss Prevention Certification Board (LPCB), or independent organisations such as British Approvals for Fire Equipment (BAFE). UKAS will only accredit a CB to deliver a scheme where UKAS is satisfied the schemes comply with international quality standards.

Where does the FIA fit into all this?

The FIA can provide information on all of the TPC schemes and give advice on which schemes would be most appropriate to cover your areas of work.

We also provide consultancy services to businesses looking to achieve TPC to assist them in working towards scheme requirements. In addition, by meeting the requirements of a scheme relevant to your work in the industry, you will meet the necessary criteria to become a member of the FIA, which will help to prove your competence.

Gaining TPC enables you to differentiate your company from others. It also allows you to attract a better quality of client, be involved in a better quality of work, win extra business and run your business better.

For more information on Third Party Certification and what schemes are available download the FIA’s whitepaper>>