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Marex Canada Limited Joins Forces with UL Canada to Offer Engineering Expertise & Field Evaluation Services in Alberta

Posted on August 3, 2016

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UL, a global safety science organization, announces an alliance with Marex Canada Limited to deliver field evaluation services for gas-fired equipment in the Province of Alberta. As an accredited Standards Council of Canada (SCC) Certification Body (CB), UL Canada will now work with Marex Canada Limited and industry owners and operators to help confirm their gas- fired equipment is in compliance with Provincial Regulatory requirements before the January 1, 2020 compliance requirement date.

 

The collaboration between UL Canada and Marex will benefit the oil and gas industry in Alberta as the two organizations will offer enhanced local services by combining their engineering expertise and inspection capabilities. UL Canada’s mission is to work for a safer world and for more than 95 years has been pioneering progress in safety science with the aim of providing comprehensive services to certify, validate, test, inspect, audit, advise and educate. As a Safety Codes agency accredited by the Alberta Safety Codes Council in accordance with the Safety Codes Act, Marex Canada Limited started out by specializing in the provision of regulatory compliance monitoring services for accredited organizations in accordance with their safety codes policies.

 

“This new alliance, formed with the customer needs in mind, demonstrates both organizations’ commitment to supporting the most important industry in the country,” said Joe Hosey, General Manager of UL Canada. “We are very pleased that UL Canada and Marex will now be able to bring more value added services to the local market in a more timely manner, benefiting the fast growing oil & gas industry in Alberta.”

 

Marex Canada has been serving the oil and gas industry since 2002 by providing effective interpretation of codes and standards, seeking out and promoting innovative products, ideas and technologies, and identifying alternative design and installation solutions.

 

“At Marex Canada Limited our mission of ‘providing leadership in safety, by integrating our expertise… to provide practical, value added solutions and by identifying, evaluating and promoting new practices, applications and technology…’ is very much in keeping with the mission of UL. This collaboration of services and expertise between Marex and UL gives the oil and gas industry more choices in meeting their safety needs and regulatory obligations,” said René Leduc, President of Marex Canada Limited. “Teaming up with UL to give industry more options for meeting their Safety Codes regulatory obligations is a natural extension of what we do at Marex. We are looking forward to this new relationship with UL, one that will better serve our clients and industry as a whole.”

Accredited – What does it mean?

Posted on March 24, 2016

People living and working in the smaller rural communities across Alberta are likely going to need to know, at some point, whether the community that they live in is accredited. If you’ve never renovated your house or built something that is required to have a permit taken out, you’re probably going to ask “what is accredited?” In the construction industry, and specifically in construction permitting, whether or not the municipality where the work is being done is accredited by the Province is just about the first thing you’ll need to know before you can get a permit for the work. The reason is, if your community is accredited under the Safety Codes Act, then they can issue your construction permit, if they aren’t accredited then you will need to check with the Province at Municipal Affairs to find out where to get your construction permits. Corporations can also become accredited, which is important for contractors to know when they’re doing work for a corporation.

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The Merriam-Webster dictionary says that Accredit, “means: to give official authorization of, or, to recognize or vouch for as conforming with a standard”.

In the context of whether or not your municipality is accredited, it has to do with whether the Province, through the Safety Codes Council, has authorized the municipality to issue construction permits and have their safety codes officers inspect the work, this is also the case for a corporation. The power to grant accreditation is given to the Province through the Safety Codes Act, which is the regulation that brings into law the various construction codes and standards that all construction, and the equipment and materials used, has to comply with. When the Province designates a body as being accredited, they are accredited to administer all or part of the Safety Codes Act within their boundaries.

There are about 355 recognized municipalities in the province of Alberta and every municipality and corporation in Alberta has the opportunity to become accredited, if they choose. Municipalities also have the option of creating alliances with other nearby municipalities to act jointly as a single accredited “Regional Services Commission” to combine their resources and make it more affordable to meet the responsibilities of accreditation. The decision to become accredited isn’t to be taken lightly. Accreditation carries with it a burden of responsibility. An accredited municipality must maintain accurate records of permits, inspections, approval of variances, issue orders for compliance, provide for safety codes officers to perform inspections, and participate in periodic audits to ensure they are meeting the requirements of the Safety Codes Act, just to mention some of their responsibilities. Some of the benefits of being an accredited municipality are that the municipal planners have a greater level of control over the construction projects within their boundaries, the money for permits stays within the local community, and the work needed to support the permitting system often employs a number of local residents, all of which supports the local economy. For corporations the responsibilities and benefits are very similar to those of a municipality, in that they regain some level of control over the inspections process and no longer have to wait for a municipality to give them permission to begin work, they also often pay lower fees to have their work inspected.

Knowing whether or not you live in an accredited municipality or work for an accredited corporation, is one of the first things that you’ll want to know if you’re planning to do any work where a permit is required by the Safety Codes Act. Having this knowledge helps by directing you to the resources where you can ask someone if the work you’re planning needs to be permitted. If you live in an accredited municipality you can simply call or email your municipal administration offices to find out who or where to go to get permit information. You can also go to the Alberta Municipal Affairs website, http://www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca/cp_permit_information for information about permitting and which municipalities are accredited and which aren’t. In the case of a corporation, you’ll most likely be told what the procedures are before you start the work.

Arguably, the most beneficial aspect of the accreditation option in the Safety Codes Act is to be able to maintain a greater level of control over who is performing the inspections on the work and to what level of service you want to receive from the safety codes officers, as long as they meet the prescribed minimum level of service. Accreditation of municipalities and corporations also serves the Provincial government by sharing the cost of permits and inspections so the costs aren’t borne by a single level of government and decisions governing staffing levels and local needs are made at a local level by local people. Having this framework governed by an overarching government regulation helps to keep a certain amount of consistency from region to region with only minor local nuances and differences.

Hopefully, now when you need to know where to go to get a permit for a construction project you’ll know to find out whether the municipality or corporation is accredited under the Safety Codes Act.

By

Blake Allen

SCO, Marex Canada Limited

 

Hello world!

Posted on March 11, 2016

Welcome to WordPress. This is your first post. Edit or delete it, then start writing!

The Case for Inspections

Posted on February 16, 2016

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The main purpose of construction codes and standards are to give property owners and building occupants a reasonable expectation of safety in the buildings where they live and work. In Alberta, construction codes and standards are enforceable through the Safety Codes Act. Among other things, this government regulation is the guiding document for the permitting system in our province that regulates when construction permits are required, who can issue a permit, and who can receive a permit. The importance of permits in this system cannot be overstated because a permit tells municipalities that work is being done that within their jurisdiction. The existence of a permit initiates a series of events where safety codes officers can monitor compliance with the construction codes of the various disciplines or trades.

Our construction codes are a collection of rules based on a collection of experiences, often not very happy experience and sometimes down-right tragic ones. Along with experience, many of the current codes are also backed by accepted truths from the field of engineering and proven through extensive testing in controlled environments. When an apprentice in a trade goes to school, as a part of their training there’s always a portion of time spent explaining some historical perspective of the trade. As a plumbing apprentice I was shown pictures and given the back-story about why domestic water heaters have to have a relief valve. The pictures of shattered homes from exploding water heaters where a gas valve had failed to turn off and superheated the water until the pressure caused the tank to fail are eye opening, to say the least. To this day, I periodically will come across a home owner who has gone to the local hardware or box store and bought a plug and screwed it into the relief valve because water was dripping from it. There’s a requirement for relief valves on water heaters in the National Plumbing Code to prevent a rocket from launching in your basement and it doesn’t work if it’s plugged.

Fresh air is crucial for gas-fired appliances to burn safely and completely. Up until recently, most homes had gas appliances that relied on the air from the room they were in for complete combustion to occur. These appliances are known as natural draft appliances because the vent or chimney depended on the buoyancy of the hot gases to travel up the vent to outside and they draw in air from the room at the connection of the vent to the appliance through a draft hood. The combustion chamber, where the burner is, also draws in air from the room to have the oxygen needed to burn completely. In most cases the air used in the vent and combustion chamber is brought in through an insulated pipe, straight from outside to the mechanical room. I’ve been in numerous homes where the owner had filled that pipe with towels or rags to keep that cold air from entering the house and in the process, preventing the appliances from getting the air they needed to burn cleanly and vent properly. If air pressure in a house is reduced below the outside air pressure, air will naturally be brought into the house through the easiest route which in some cases could be the furnace or water heater chimney which would cause the appliances to backdraft into the home filling it with the products of combustion. When a gas-fired appliance gets enough air to burn completely, the off-gases are relatively harmless, but when there is incomplete combustion harmful carbon monoxide gas and aldehydes are created which can have deadly consequences for the occupants of a home. The number of people hospitalized, and in too many cases of deaths, lead to a change in building codes where we now see that most, if not all, gas-fired appliances installed in homes are of the high efficient type where there is no direct communication between the air in the house and the combustion chamber or the vent systems of the appliances. This physical separation of the air inside the home and the vent gasses produced in the combustion process has dramatically increased the safety of gas-fired appliances in our homes.

These are some very simple examples of how our construction codes have changed and evolved over time and through advances in technology. There are many other examples that I could have used, but the point that I’ve attempted to make is that our codes are constantly changing. For the average tradesman who’s competing for customers and keeping their work on schedule, it’s sometimes difficult to keep up with the changes in their given discipline. For the safety codes officers (SCO) who perform the inspections on permitted work, keeping current with the codes is their responsibility. In Alberta, the Safety Codes Council (SCC) is responsible for “review(ing), formulate, and recommend codes and standards to the Minister for the nine technical disciplines covered under the Act.” The SCC has members involved on the national code development committees so that when an updated national code for the building, electrical, plumbing, or gas, discipline has been approved for adoption in Alberta, they create code update courses for safety codes officers to learn about the changes to the previous code. Usually these code update courses are ready well in advance of the date when the new code is to come into effect and safety codes officers have to complete the training to be ready to enforce it when the code comes into effect. Every SCO must take the code update training and pass an exam to maintain their certification as a SCO.

Update training is not a requirement for a tradesman with a journeyman’s ticket. Once a tradesman completes their apprenticeship and passes the exams to receive their journeyman ticket, they have it for life. Only in an extreme case would a journeyman ticket be revoked, and I’m not aware of any case where that has happened. With this in mind, it’s important to point out that there isn’t any need for tradesmen to have any code update training because a responsible tradesman always gets a permit for the work that they do and the SCO inspecting their work will quickly inform them of where the work doesn’t meet the current code. This is often how changes to the code get put into effect. In many cases the municipalities issuing the permits are proactive in informing contractors about upcoming changes to the codes through email lists and notices on their websites or during the permit application phase. The Safety Codes Council and Alberta municipal Affairs are also very good at telling the construction industry of upcoming changes to the codes through the various industry associations and notices on their websites for the contractors and tradesmen that seek out the information.

This system of code compliance has worked very well for customers, owners, contractors and tradesmen who make sure to have their work permitted, for a very long time now. However there is one very crucial point where the entire system falls apart or can be circumvented, permits. The entire system is dependent on the issuance of a permit. Without permits there are no inspections and therefore there are no checks and balances on the work being performed. Unscrupulous, or simply ignorant, building owners and the contractors that they hire, are performing dangerous installations of electrical or gas systems and building substandard products that will fail prematurely with often harmful consequences. Unpermitted work is often found after something has happened that causes the municipality to be notified and asked to investigate. We’ve all seen stories of incedents that rise to a level where they make the local or national news such as electrical fires, carbon monoxide poisonings, and building collapses, but the incidents that don’t make the news are no less severe to those affected by the consequences of poor construction practices. Walls filled with mould caused by water leaking around a poorly sealed window installation or a leaking drain, a drain that constantly plugs and overflows because of a lack of grade or excessive changes of direction, persistently cold rooms in the winter from poor insulation and air barrier installations in an attic or floor, all of these kinds of problems cause damage and illness for the building occupants and eventually make it necessary to have expensive renovations performed. These issues can usually be avoided by hiring responsible contractors and tradesmen who aren’t afraid to get the needed permits so that a safety codes officer can do their job which can give an owner the comfort in knowing that the checks and balances inherent in the system have been performed.

Finally, it should be pointed out that the owner of a building or property that contracts or performs any work to be done, that is identified in the Safety Codes Act as requiring a permit or governed by a construction code, is responsible to ensure that the work is compliant with the codes. The best way that an owner can have any assurance that the work being done for them is compliant is to demand that permits are taken out and that they hire responsible people to do the work. The safety codes system in Alberta is designed to give Albertans safe buildings and systems to live and work in but it is not fool proof. In order for the system to be able to provide any reasonable expectations of safe buildings, everyone must do their part, beginning with getting permits for the work being done.

By Blake Allen, Senior Safety Codes Officer

Marex Canada Limited

Flare Stacks and the B149

Posted on January 19, 2016

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In the fall of 2015 Sid Manning, Plumbing and Gas administrator at Alberta Municipal Affairs, spoke to a group of gas Safety Codes Officers about a number of issues of concern regarding gas code enforcement around the Province. One of those issues was the enforcement of the B149.1 and B149.3 codes on the pilot line serving flare stacks on the thousands of industrial plants throughout our province. This was news to many of us in the room, me included, because there has been a belief that the entire flare stack was exempt from these codes. This is partially true because the flare stack is an extension of the process gas system, however the pilot line is using gas as a fuel to light the flare. When a gas such as natural gas or propane is used as a fuel it falls within the scope of the B149 gas codes and subsequently needs to be installed by a licenced gasfitter, the materials have to be certified for use in a gas system as prescribed in the code, and a permit is required so that the installation can be inspected.

If the flare stacks in the picture above are any indication of a typical flare stack installation, the enforcement of the B149 is going to come as something of a revelation to the oil and gas industry. A few short months after listening to Mr. Manning’s instruction, I was on one of our client’s sites where two flare stacks are being prepared to be installed. While the vendor who supplied these flare stacks obviously provided a quality product and attempts to use quality materials; the pilot systems on these flare stacks fall short of meeting the code. The main code issues that were immediately identified are the lack of a product certification and rating plate for the pilot system and a lack of approved materials and components in the manufacturing of the pilot system.

First, the hose used to run up the mast to the pilot control assembly and solenoid is not approved for use in a gas system. The Standard that the hose is certified to is an SAE standard used in the automotive industry. The labelling on the hose states that it is an air brake line and a look at the manufacturer’s specifications for the hose seem to affirm that it is a quality product. However the standard referenced on the hose isn’t one that is recognized by the gas code and as an SCO I don’t have the authority to accept a standard on a product that differs from the code. If the client wanted to use this hose they would need to apply for a variance from the Gas Administrator at Alberta Municipal Affairs, which would likely hold up the project schedule with no guaranty that it would be accepted in the end.

Secondly, still looking at the hose, the supports holding the hose in place are metal gear clamps. With a hose that runs up a mast to upwards of 150 feet in the air, the sides of a metal gear clamp pose a definite risk of cutting into the hose as the wind gusts past, shaking the hose. A different way of supporting the hose is needed, one that can withstand exposure to the environment but not damage the hose.

Lastly, every appliance has to be certified by an approved body authorized by the Standards Council of Canada. Certification is a requirement within the Safety Codes Act and regulations that make it possible for a safety codes officer to inspect the installation of many different products without needing to be an expert in several different fields of engineering and to have the confidence that a product is being put into service in a safe manner and for the use it is intended to serve. In this instance, that certification is likely to come in the form of a field approval by an Inspection Body approved by the Standards Council of Canada.

In the end, none of these code issues will be difficult to remedy but there is going to be an added burden in labour and materials to make these changes in the field. When the manufacturer’s engineers for these flare stacks have had time to compare the standards that the code recognizes and the standards that they’ve been using, higher authorities than me will have to decide if the gas codes are the most suitable standard to meet for the pilot system on a flare stack. It may also be the case that the pilot system on flare stacks should have been considered as “Legacy Equipment” and input into the LEMS program. I’m hopeful that we will be able to work collaboratively with our clients and the manufacturers of this equipment to address any code issues before they leave the manufacturing yard in the future, but I have no option but to enforce the gas code on any new installations that I come across.

 

By Blake Allen

Senior Gas SCO

Marex Canada Limited

 

Changing Alberta Safety Codes Inspections

Posted on November 23, 2015

A change is coming, in the New Year, to permitting and inspections for construction projects in the unaccredited areas of the province. As of the 1st of January, 2016 the responsibility for overseeing the permitting and inspections in the unaccredited areas of the province will transfer from Alberta Municipal Affairs to the Alberta Safety Codes Authority (ASCA). This transfer of responsibility led to a complete review of the system in place for how permits are issued and the quality of the inspections being performed in unaccredited areas. The biggest changes to come out of the review are in the level of oversight and auditing of the agencies issuing and servicing the permits, as well as a change to how the price of a permit is set. Agencies will be audited much more frequently to help ensure that they’re meeting the requirements of the Act in gathering all the information from permit applicants and also performing at least the minimum number of on-site inspections.

Permit prices, in most cases, will go up to better reflect the true cost of the work being performed and the price of permits will be set by ASCA, not the individual agencies. For contractors who’ve worked in accredited municipalities the ASCA fee structure will be very familiar, with set prices for specific types of work. Under Alberta Municipal Affairs, the cost of a permit was mandated to define maximum permit fees but the agencies could decide what to charge for each permit they issued, as long as they stayed below the maximums. This allowed agencies to compete by lowering the price of a permit, which made it so that similar jobs could have very different permit prices from one agency to another and it encouraged contractors to shop jobs around before settling on an agency. While this was desirable for the permit holder whose only concern was cost, it created an environment where agencies couldn’t cover the costs of travel and wages unless there were a number of permits in close proximity to be inspected on the same day. With the vast distances to be covered and the reality that there are many remote areas where construction is taking place, it may not be reasonable to expect an individual safety codes officer to be able to safely reach and inspect more than a handful of installations in remote areas in a single day. The new pricing scheme, under ASCA, will bring some stability back to the agencies with consistent permit prices from agency to agency and the ability to compete based on their customer service, rather than cost. There are also benefits to project planners and contractors in knowing what to budget for permits before they actually apply for one, and there will be less time wasted shopping around for a better price.

The increased permit prices will also give ASCA the ability to have sufficient staffing levels to better oversee the agencies to verify that they’re meeting their obligations under the Act and their contractual obligations with ASCA. Money collected from permit applicants is now held by ASCA and then only paid to the agency at predetermined stages within the permit process. This also helps to increase oversight and will help to prevent an agency from issuing a large number of permits and then neglecting their responsibilities to service those permits, because the agency doesn’t get paid until they have performed the work and have documented it. By adopting this process of paying agencies, it creates incentive for the agency to check in with permit holders more regularly, reducing the incidents where the contractors cover their work before it can be inspected or forget altogether to call for inspections. More importantly, if something happens to the agency the permit holder has the security that ASCA has the money so that another agency can take over the permit and the funds are already available to service the permit through to the end of the project.

A major driving force behind the decision to change the way inspections are performed in the unaccredited areas of the province, was recognition that there was some disparity in the level of service from what could be expected in many of the accredited municipalities to the unaccredited areas in Alberta. In an accredited municipality the safety codes officers have a limited area to serve and no competition from other agencies for the permits within the municipality. These conditions mean that the travel costs are more readily shared between several permit holders and there is a greater density of permits to service within those limited boundaries so that the agency could service the permits in a cost effective manner. Alberta Municipal Affairs and ASCA believe that there shouldn’t be a difference in the level of service that a permit holder receives depending on whether or not they are in an accredited or unaccredited municipality. Every Albertan should be able to expect to live and work in buildings that meet the respective discipline’s codes, because the level of code compliance in a building corresponds directly to the level of safety for the building occupants.

What doesn’t change when ASCA takes over is the way that contractors and owners apply for their permits. Permit applicants will still give the agency the money for the permit, will still apply for the permit, and will still schedule the inspections through the agency of their choosing. The only noticeable differences will be in the cost of a permit and, hopefully, more thorough inspections. Almost all of the same agencies have agreed to continue issuing permits under ASCA, and Marex Canada Limited is one of them. We will update our website with the new permit fee schedules as soon as we can after they are finalized and approved, and do our best to keep our customers informed and up to date.

Written by Blake Allen,

Senior Building, Plumbing and Gas SCO

 

The New Kids?

Posted on October 19, 2015

Welcome to our newly re-designed website! An introduction is probably in order. Marex Canada Limited may be new to many of you who have found our new webpage, but we are not a new inspections agency. Our doors first opened in December of 2002, to provide electrical safety codes and hazardous location area classification services to a few corporate oil and gas clients. Now we offer permits and inspections for every discipline to corporations and municipalities across the province.

In the fall of 2013, Marex added to the services we provide by increasing our accreditation to include the building, fire, plumbing and gas disciplines. Then in the spring of 2015 we sought the authority to issue municipal permits in unaccredited areas of the province and were granted that authority by Alberta Municipal Affairs in the summer. That means that homeowners, contractors and anyone needing a permit in an unaccredited municipality can come to Marex for their construction permits.

In order to tell people about who we are and all that we do, we’ve totally redesigned our website. This is the first phase of our site. We plan to create a secure portal for our clients to be able to view inspection reports and keep track of exactly where they are throughout the permit and inspections process in the second phase of our web re-development. Among the various pages of our website is the “General Information” page that has important information for the various disciplines of the construction trades. We will be adding to the articles on that page as time allows, to eventually be able to answer a wide range of general and specific questions that are often asked of us. We hope that you will visit our site for the answers to all of your safety codes questions, and if you can’t find what you’re looking for, that you’ll call or send us an email so we can help you.

Our entrance into a new area of permitting and inspections is exciting for us and is very much like starting from scratch. We have a whole new group of people and companies who aren’t familiar with our style and philosophy of inspections services and we’re prepared to take the time to extend to them our reputation of quality inspections. Marex was built by adding value to the construction projects that our clients undertake. We do this by identifying the code related problems in a given design or installation and staying engaged with all parties involved to resolve the issue. It benefits no one to throw up road blocks and walk away from the discussion on how to correct the problem, so we offer guidance on the viability of possible solutions in achieving code compliance.

Although safety codes services are at the heart of our business, we listen to our client’s concerns and see the issues and areas on the periphery where our clients struggle to get quality equipment and services. One area that has been notable, for our corporate clients, is in their inability to purchase quality modular electrical equipment that meets our Canadian and provincial standards. In many instances this modular equipment was arriving on site and then required extensive electrical re-working to bring it up to an acceptable standard before it could be put into service. This re-working of the electrical components, on often very remote sites, is very costly and negatively impacts the scheduling of a project.

In an effort to reduce the overall costs of our client’s projects, Marex has created a separate business unit and opened a facility where we can fabricate modular electrical equipment, commonly referred to in the industry as “plug and play” equipment. These equipment packages are built to the specific requirements of our clients and inspected by a safety codes officer to both the Canadian Electrical Code and the client specifications. Our Certificate of Recognition (COR), ISO 9001 procedures, industry leading health and safety program, and attention to detail ensure our clients’ requirements are met before they arrive on site.

We’re always looking for meaningful ways to strengthen our relationships with our clients and demonstrate our commitment to adding value to the projects our clients undertake. We’re also very excited for having an opportunity to bring our philosophy to a new segment of the construction industry.

By René Leduc
President
Marex Canada Limited