Experienced Asset Coating Management

Certified Coating Specialists Inc.

As one of only two Society for Protective Coatings (SSPC-QP1 and QP2) certified contractors based in British Columbia, Certified Coating Specialists Inc. complies with and supports SSPC – QP certification requirements for industrial painters to receive focused industrial painting trade education and skills training.

Founded in the United States in 1950 as the Steel Structures Painting Council, the SSPC is today a non-profit professional society concerned with the use of coatings to protect industrial steel structures.

Expanding over the years with changes in technology, it is today focused on the protection and preservation of concrete, steel and other industrial and marine structures and surfaces through the use of high-performance protective, marine and industrial coatings. In addition to offering training and certification courses, painting contractor certification programs, conferences and events, the SSPC remains the leading source of information on surface preparation, coating selection, coating application, environmental regulations, and health and safety issues that affect the protective coatings industry.

In Canada, there is the Red Seal Journeyman Painter, an interprovincial certification program that has long been commercial painting focused, with minimal attention given to the skills set required for industrial painters. In British Columbia, however, this is about to change, as District Council 38 of the International Union Painters and Allied Trades has agreed to get 100 percent behind the SSPC CAS training program and has made significant investment in preparation for delivering this training. Investments include upgrades to the Surrey based painter trade school, equipment, and certification of trade instructors to deliver the CAS training.

At Certified, the company fully supports the move to introduce CAS training in British Columbia. “We see this initiative and investment in the CAS program aligning perfectly with our own corporate goal to be the best,” says Byran Place, President of Certified Coating Specialists Inc. “We recognize that Certified has to take the lead in our support of training in the Industrial Coatings industry to continue the push for the growth and quality of our trade as we move into our future; we see CAS training fitting very well with our own in-house training programs.”

Doing it Right

For Certified Coating Specialists, there is no greater satisfaction than that derived from taking on a project which results in professionally applied industrial coatings which last for years, and the knowledge that customers keep coming back time and again for work that not only meets, but exceeds expectations.

Originally formed as Kootenay Powder Coating Ltd. in Castlegar, British Columbia in 1994 by Chief Executive Officer Clifford Harper and his wife Joy, the company’s service offerings grew over time to include surface preparation, abrasive blasting, the application of protective coating products through Thermal Plastics, “wet” coating application services and more. Originally operating from a central facility, Certified Coating Specialists today is active in the field, performing large coating and painting services across B.C.’s interior for clients in a wide range of diverse sectors, ranging from power generation and transmission to marine-related services, oil and gas industries, waste water, pulp and paper, and industrial sectors.

A leader in the hazardous material abatement and painting industry, Certified provides services including coating application, abrasive blasting, lead abatement, technical support and much more, with a focus on removing older lead-based coatings from bridges, tanks, and other containers and structures while respecting Occupational Health and Safety guidelines and the natural environment.

Long before he became CEO of Certified, Cliff Harper served as CEO of an environmentally related business doing hazardous materials containment. “It was through my involvement in that industry that I became aware of hazardous materials in the environment,” he says, explaining how his passion for safe work grew as he learned more about the risks of improperly-done work. “It’s wrong for us to hurt kids. When we’re removing lead, the risk is not so much for the working man – the risk is where he takes home lead-based dust to his children, in his truck or in his car, and then his kids get in, and they inhale that dust. Lead contamination of a child or a pregnant woman is a serious thing.”

With a fulltime staff of over 20 and employing up to 100 others during the year, Certified Coating Specialists Inc. ensures all staff are highly trained in the safe application and removal of coating materials, and are aware how to protect themselves and their families. Along with his team, Mr. Harper is doing all he can to elevate the profession to a point where jobs are done properly and are able to last for decades, not just a few years. “Repairs always take longer than doing it right the first time,” he says.

Environmentally Sound

Before a bridge, tank, or other large object can be coated, Certified takes steps to determine if existing materials are hazardous, which is as simple as removing a few paint chips, sending them to a lab for testing, and determining if lead or other unsafe products are in the existing paint. “Often, the unsophisticated owner of an asset isn’t even aware that he needs to know that,” says Mr. Harper. “It is up to the trades company to help educate the owner of the asset.”

Over the past two decades, Mr. Harper says he has seen more cases than he cares to remember of someone with no qualifications – usually a housepainter – telling owners of bridges and other steel structures that he is competent and capable of painting an asset worth thousands, sometimes millions of dollars. The results can be disastrous. Most conventional painters are not educated about the inherent hazards of lead paint; those who are often choose not to tell an owner of an asset that the existing paint or other coating needs to be tested before it can be removed.

“Our business is the removal of hazardous materials, and the application of protective coatings,” says Mr. Harper of his company. He emphasizes the need for safe, expert removal of materials to protect the ecosystem. In the case of a 900-foot-long bridge, for example, Certified will erect 200 feet of scaffolding at a time, and will drape a containment material such as a shrink wrap or tarping over that section. In accordance with SSPC Guide 6 – a standard which defines how to remove lead safely in a contained environment – Certified’s trained staff will hook up 40,000 – 100,000 CFM dust collection equipment. As dust is generated from workers engaged in abrasive operations during the removal of coatings from steel, it is safely removed for their safety and contained.

During the removal process, visual and other monitoring practices are in place to determine if any dust is escaping. “If you see dust leave containment, you shut your job down until you get a flow of air better contained,” explains Mr. Harper. To keep dust and humidity down in order to prevent generating rust, dried air is introduced into the containment area.

Many clients are becoming increasingly aware of the need to protect the planet. Prior to washing a bridge in Edmonton two years ago, the company was instructed by the city to capture all the wash water, as zinc in the paint chips could fall into the North Saskatchewan River and harm the wildlife. For another client, B.C. Ferries, all water has to be captured, where it is then sent to a facility where water is boiled off and the remnants are trucked to a cement plant for re-use. Unfortunately, says Mr. Harper, many bridges across Canada are washed every day; the water is not collected, and is goes back into rivers and streams, harming the fragile ecosystem.

Along with Certified, there are a number of professional and credible industrial coating companies in Canada who are QP1 and QP2 certified; unfortunately, there are countless small two, three and four-man operations who simply don’t have the training, experience, or tools to remove coatings safely with no harm to workers, the environment, or the bridge, tank, or other expensive asset undergoing removal. “Small companies simply cannot afford the right equipment to meet safety and environmental standards and deliver the end results customers need,” comments Mr. Harper. Certified, on the other hand, has invested over $5 million in professional equipment to remove and apply coatings.

With an estimated 60 percent of his company’s business derived from removing coatings and re-doing the poorly done work of others, Mr. Harper says that it is crucial for owners of large and expensive assets to familiarize themselves with the best practices of the coatings industry.

“What we’re trying to do across North America is find out where the knowledge level is of the trade today, and then once we’ve established that across the continent, then we want to develop more enhanced training programs to elevate the knowledge level,” he says of the need for industrial painters to take the certified applicator specialist test developed by SSCP to establish a base rate of knowledge that an industrial painter has to have. “It is something in the industry that many of us have been trying to change for years. What you need to know to paint a house is entirely different from what you need to know to paint a bridge; they are two entirely different trades, in our opinion.”

In the future, education will be the key for successful coating applications and removals. “Anything that is 20 years old probably has a hazardous material coating on it,” says Mr. Harper. Even today, many brand-new items made in other countries which don’t follow strict environmental protocols come to Canada covered in lead paint. While lead-based coatings are undeniably durable, they are also dangerous, and new products that combine strength and safety need to be developed to meet future needs.

December 14, 2017, 10:11 AM EST