Lab Canada

Independent testing labs protest new contracting arrangements

Toronto, ON – The Canadian Council of Independent Laboratories is speaking out against new contracting arrangements being entered into by the Ontario’s provincial government, under which some construction, repair and maintenance projects involving highways and other infrastructure are now being done without requirements for any independent testing or inspection of their quality or safety.

“This is a big mistake – a serious and potentially dangerous mistake,” says Derwyn Reuber, executive director of the Canadian Council of Independent Laboratories (CCIL).

The province no longer requires rigorous independent testing or inspection under some of these new procurement agreements such as design-build and performance-based contracts. There is no independent oversight of the design, materials or construction methods used.

And without independent verification, there is no assurance that the materials and construction meet standards.

“This lack of oversight will likely result in increased costs for taxpayers as relatively new infrastructure has to be replaced or repaired,” notes Reuber. “It could also endanger the public as there are now fewer checks against structural failures and unsafe construction and designs.”

He cites a case in point – the Herb Gray Parkway in Windsor, in which girders were deemed by the province and engineers to not meet the standards of the Canadian Highway Bridge Design Code. An independent expert review committee recently released an interim report, recommending that hundreds of girders be replaced, monitored or repaired because of the concerns over safety and durability.

“If there had been independent inspection and testing on behalf of the ultimate owner of this project, the potential problem would have been identified much earlier. This would have saved a significant amount of money for taxpayers and avoided long delays in completing the Parkway,” says Reuber.

The interim report on the Herb Gray Parkway makes the point: “It is indispensable to have independent inspections and competent scrutiny of the Quality Assurance program.”

CCIL is urging the Ontario government to require all public infrastructure projects to be subject to independent quality control and quality assurance testing and inspection. To ensure independence, these services should be retained by, and the findings reported directly to, government. 

“Considering the scale of today’s infrastructure, and the many lives that depend on it, independent testing is a very small price to pay for ensuring standards are met and public safety is protected,” Reuber adds.

CCIL represents the independent, private-sector laboratories in Canada. Because CCIL members are independent, they have no vested interest in the outcome of their testing.