Dolphin Bay is promoting the principles of our Quality Pledge more vigorously than ever, having resolved to supply our CCA only to timber treatment operators that have signed the Pledge or operate in the spirit that it embodies.
This decision follows industry meetings, supported by some evidence of our own, about certain timber treaters knowingly supplying substandard and therefore illegal poles to retail outlets and to the public.
“This boils down to fraud, as the end customer has no idea that the poles are substandard.”
“While the severity of this problem can be debated, our own investigations show that it is real, and we know it is occurring at both CCA- and creosote-treatment operations,” observed Bertus.
“Dolphin Bay is not an inspection body and has no intention of becoming one. We pride ourselves on providing a helping hand to our customers, should there be any technical difficulty in meeting the specifications. This relationship is based on mutual trust. It is not possible for us to help should a customer wilfully decide to provide substandard, illegally treated timber to the market. In such an event, Dolphin Bay will distance itself, as we cannot be associated with fraudulent activities.
“Selling substandard treated timber boils down to fraud, as the end user has no idea that their purchase is sub-standard. The SANS specifications have been set in place based on the textile strength of the timber, combined with the efficacy of the preservatives, which will result in a quality product that will last. Should customers move away from these specifications, not only are they undermining our industry and its future; they are wilfully placing people’s safety in jeopardy.”
Illustrating the seriousness of the matter, Bertus observed that should a family buy poles to erect a jungle gym for their children, and one of the substandard poles is part of the supporting structure, this could result in the death of a child. For industrial settings, the consequences are similar if contractors or workers be exposed to structurally unsound treated timber.
“Surely neither timber treaters, nor the industry, would want to be liable in such an event? Substandard treatment makes timber treaters no better than the illegal dip treaters on the roadside that the industry has been complaining about.”
“We now realise that the NRCS is trying to do its job, but works with a poor budget and in dangerous conditions. A lot needs to be done to give them more teeth. We want the NRCS to know they have our industry’s support.”
Dolphin Bay and other CCA suppliers have agreed not to supply our product to timber treaters known to be supplying substandard/illegal poles.
“The problem of illicit treatment comes amid fierce price wars in our industry, as many treaters keep cutting the prices they charge their customers in a misguided attempt to ensure that their businesses stay afloat,” said Bertus. “As we are seeing, this is a dangerous and destructive business model. It is far better to take a stand for both quality and sustainability and set our prices accordingly.
“Dolphin Bay has written extensively about this matter before. A profitable industry is a sustainable industry.”
The Quality Pledge outlines six principles providing benchmarks for every aspect of ethical and sustainable timber treatment.
Building trust with the NRCS
Treaters selling substandard poles stand to be raided by the National Regulator for Compulsory Standards (NRCS), and at a meeting with the industry last month, the NRCS said it would act against industry members selling illegal poles.
“It was a good meeting,” said Bertus. “In the past, we have criticised the NRCS heavily for its inaction against the mushrooming problem of illegal informal treaters but, in a presentation to the industry, they made clear the problems they are facing.
“The NRCS inspectors are trying to do their jobs but work with a poor budget and in dangerous conditions. When they arrive at informal treatment sites, their lives are often threatened, and they need to call upon the police.
“Also, they are not equipped to remove timber. A lot needs to be done to give them more teeth.”
At its meeting with the industry, the NRCS said it had been “flooded” with complaints from customers regarding the inadequacy of treated poles, and that the illegal treaters and sellers typically target rural areas. “The timber treatment associations are active, and their role is appreciated,” the NRCS said in a presentation.
One formal hardware store with a household name refused to tell the NRCS where it had obtained the substandard poles it was selling. This outlet has requested the substandard poles from a timber treater. The motive was doubtless that these poles cost less, bringing higher profit margins.
The NRCS explained at the meeting that the confiscation of illegal timber remains a challenge as it is an expensive and time-consuming exercise requiring transportation, loading and storage costs. Nevertheless, in the twelve months following April 2022, the organisation raided 96 retail outlets and distributors of treated timber. During these raids, it removed 28 066 poles.
“We want the NRCS to know they have our industry’s support. We are there to help them as we work together to combat the growing threat of illegally treated timber,” concluded Bertus.