Regional Digest: Members in British Columbia address heater certification issue

Certifying natural gas- or propane-fired heaters is a safety measure that is required by the British Columbia Safety Authority in Canada. Through the efforts of Russ Walsh, president of EZE Rent-it Centre in Chilliwack, British Columbia; Jim Clipperton, owner of Nor-Val Rentals in Armstrong, British Columbia, and CRA British Columbia president; and Angie Venekamp, manager of Rental Network in Squamish, British Columbia, an effective method of compliance is now in place.

The purpose of the Safety Authority is to oversee several things, including gas operations. Any new natural gas- or propane-fired heater must be certified prior to use by a licensed technician. However, over the last 20 years the regulation has been in place, many licensed technicians have retired.

Those in the rental industry, which provides an estimated 90 percent of the heaters in the province, still need the certifications and many have had to turn to potentially expensive outsourcing.

Walsh saw the financial hardship this could pose for rental companies as well as an opportunity for the association to deliver compliance province-wide. “In many cases, companies were seeking outside sources for certification at a huge cost for each heater. Some places have 200 heaters and outsourcing that on a regular basis is a major issue. This problem was very well known in the industry. It’s one of those opportunities where the association could shine and meet the needs of the industry,” he says.

After talking with Clipperton about his idea for providing certification training to rental company employees through CRA, Walsh approached the Safety Authority with his proposal and found them to be very receptive. “The goal for everyone is compliance, so they were happy to entertain the idea of a more efficient and cost-effective means to achieve that,” he says.

With input from heater manufacturers, Walsh developed a certification training course outline and submitted it to the Safety Authority. Upon approval of the outline, he met with Clipperton and Venekamp to further discuss and finalize the course and program logistics.

Clipperton and Venekamp were integral in implementing the first course in November 2011 at the Ramada Plazza in Abbotsford. The event exceeded expectations, attracting 60 participants and inspiring a letter from a senior officer at the Safety Authority in which he offered congratulations on moving the program forward and having such a successful training program.

“Fine tuning does need to happen, but this was a great start. The next course will be Sept. 25-26 and we look forward to continuing to provide this important service,” says Walsh.