The Bureau of Standards Jamaica (BSJ) is intensifying its activities to increase the compliance rate among block makers. Already, a number of manufacturers have brought their operations up to standard, since the agency raised concern about the high percentage of faulty hollow concrete blocks on the market.
Director of the Regulatory Division at the BSJ, Orine Henry, said the four regional offices are carrying out inspections of block operations across the country. “We have been going to construction sites, hardware stores, everywhere we can find block makers, we have been targeting them,” she stated.
“If persons are operating in their backyards, our team might not necessarily know of those persons, but then again, we ask persons to provide us with information,” Ms. Henry said.
She was speaking at a press conference held on December 16, 2015 at the BSJ's Winchester Road offices.
Ms. Henry further pointed out that the Industrial Training Unit was in the process of planning a developmental training programme for block makers.
“There might be some competency issues, so we are now putting together a programme. We have identified experts and early in the New Year, there will be a training programme and they (block makers) will be certified at the end of that programme,” she said.
From a series of islandwide inspections conducted in September, the BSJ found a non-compliance rate of approximately 83 per cent. This means eight out of every 10 blocks were substandard and failed the test. The failure rate fell in November, with a 60.53 per cent non-compliance.
For his part, Acting Executive Director of the BSJ, Maurice Lewin, noted that the Bureau was looking towards expanding its operations to the Montego Bay area. “We are also having discussions surrounding a mobile unit so that we can be more responsive. Part of the challenge you will see is that the block makers don’t necessarily have the wherewithal to test their blocks and they have to rely on us,” Mr. Lewin said.
“If we can have a mobile testing facility, then we can provide support for them to make a sample and we test it …and so one will meet the standards before they go and make an entire batch of blocks,” he pointed out.
Meanwhile, Executive Director of the Fair Trading Commission, David Miller, noted that under the Standards Act, there could be penalties (of $3 million and 12 months imprisonment) imposed on the block maker, who sells a faulty product. “The Fair Trading Commission has not received any complaints but we are aware of the situation and we are gathering the necessary information on a broad scale. If specific complaints come in, we can gather that specific information from that consumer and from the block maker, whom the complaint is brought against,” Mr. Miller explained.
A quarterly release of companies that are registered with the BSJ will be published. The public is being encouraged to purchase only blocks from companies that are registered with the BSJ, or from hardware stores and other entities that can confirm that their blocks were acquired from registered block makers.