Industry-led quality scheme complaints procedure successfully put to test 

Five years on from its launch, New Zealand’s Steel Fabrication Certification (SFC) scheme has been a great success. Approximately 88% of structural steel is fabricated by SFC certified fabricators, with several more businesses well on their way to certification.

To ensure the integrity of SFC, there is a robust complaints process whereby certified fabricators are held to account when things don’t go as they should.

The first complaint was lodged in 2017 by an inspection services provider (complainant) contracted to inspect the work of an SFC-qualified company.

While formal complaints are made to the SFC scheme manager, the actual complaints process is handled independently by the HERA Certification Ltd.’s Certification Panel. 

In this instance, the complainant provided a detailed inspection report highlighting where contractually agreed specifications were not met and voiced their concerns that the work did not comply with SFC requirements, specifically:

  1. Lack of welding supervision and time pressure to get the work out the door.
  2. In-house inspections were not performed and documented 3. Failure of welders to fabricate welds in accordance with AS/NZS 1554.1 4. Third-party inspection was not performed before despatching items.

When deciding action, the Certification Panel noted the respondent’s full acceptance of the complaint in its response, where it also described the root cause and their proposal to remedy the shortcomings in their QA process.

They also ensured the non-compliant steelwork was repaired in compliance with the standard and approved to the satisfaction of the complainant.

The situation didn’t warrant suspension of certification. Instead, the Panel issued a formal warning and outlined a series of corrective actions, including being put on the auditor’s watchlist for one year.

The respondent also agreed to provide full QA documentation for selected completed projects and to implement a training programme for the welding coordination team and welders. The auditor’s final report confirmed that all proposed actions were implemented satisfactorily.

“I am happy with the professional handling and response taken by the HERA Certification Panel in respect to my complaint. I have been constantly advised and updated on how this was being addressed. As a result of this experience I believe the HERA/SCNZ complaints procedure has proven to be open and cooperative and, as such, this has helped allay my concerns around the accountability of its members under the SFC scheme.” – Complainant

To find out more about the SFC scheme, please visit 


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