CSA vs. NICET
and Other Options
Compliance Services and Assessments, LC (CSA) provides services designed
to help jurisdictions achieve code compliant installations. Our primary
services involve the development and delivery of qualification assessments.
Our assessments have been developed to evaluate an individuals understanding of code requirements related to national and local requirements.
Many jurisdictions feel they are limited on ensuring contractors
are qualified. Lets look at some common obstacles:
Although we have been testing since 2002, many jurisdictions
still are not aware of CSA qualifications. As a result due to pressure
from contractors for an alternative to NICET, the AHJ may be pressured into
recognizing very basic certifications that often do not adequately address their
needs in ensuring public safety.
An example is allowing a fire alarm contractor to attend a
three day class and take a test at the end of the class. The class may
be geared towards security alarm systems and barely touch on fire alarm
systems. In fact, it may not even touch on the fire alarm code or
electrical code. What's worse is that for a security class it may not
even address building code requirements for access controlled egress or
Another consideration: Requiring a single source for services is prohibited by some
state laws and by many government and/or public financed contracts. This
not only includes sole-sourcing a product, but can also include requiring a
contractor or individual to be a member of a specific trade association,
membership organization, or be certified by a specific organization.
Besides braking a law, such practice does not allow the local jurisdiction with
a means to incorporate local criteria into an assessment without delivering
their own tests. In some cases, there may not be other organizations
offering a test on a particular subject you need tested. The solution is
indicating that you will recognize other qualifications if they can demonstrate
they satisfy your criteria. This way you are leaving the door open for
others to compete.
Some jurisdictions develop and proctor their own tests.
This causes staff burdens, is difficult to maintain current tests, is often
looked at as targeting certain contractors, frequently does not offer quite or
proctored testing environments, normally will not recover your time and
expenses, and many other challenges. Thus, third-party testing by testing
organizations eliminates many issues.
What Makes CSA Different?
CSA allows jurisdictions to offer options to a contractor. In addition, CSA is not a trade
association and we do not require membership or annual dues. We offer assessments to
demonstrate qualifications. Here are some items that make us different:
Our goal is to ensure that contractors are qualified.
We expect them to know the codes that apply to the scope of their services.
Our installer tests target installers, not designers.
As an example, our fire alarm installer questions place more emphasis on
field conditions such as spacing and location of devices. Our
sprinkler installer questions place more emphasis on field issues such as
obstructions, hangers, and spacing rather than how to perform hydraulic
calculations or use the Hazen Williams formula. Our sprinkler tests
also focus on the contractors services such as residential, commercial, or
CSA does not require lengthy forms, references, or project
history. Although this may be appropriate for a career designer under
an engineer, most of our tests are focused on evaluating if the individual
understands the code and how to use it. A simple one-page Internet
form is submitted to request an assessment.
Examinee requests are normally processed within 2 - 3 days.
Examinees receive an email with a link to schedule and pay for their
assessment on-line. The examinee selects the assessment location and
time based on the test centers availability. Some centers offer
evening and Saturday times. Most assessments can be taken within 1 - 2
weeks of initial request. Standard exams can be taken at roughly 220
locations around the U.S. ( <1-hour drive for 80% of the population).
Other options are available for a specific jurisdictions needs.
Individuals can reschedule on-line 24/7 up to 3 days before
the exam with no fees.
Examinees know their score when they finish the exam.
A score report is provided so that the examinee has evidence of passing
while they are waiting for their ID card and certificate to arrive in 2 - 3
Most companies schedule their employees to coordinate
assessment times with job schedules. Our on-line dash board allows
company supervisors and examinees to review score reports from past
assessments. Topic scores can be used to help supervisors and
examinees target week training areas for an examinee.
Unlike some testing organizations who deliver computer tests
in wood and metal shacks with dogs under the table (real condition), our
assessments are delivered at community colleges in a professional
environment with dedicated Information Technology (IT) staff to support the
systems. Our standardized assessments are considered high stake exams.
Therefore, the assessments are video / audio monitored and recorded with at
least four cameras in the room covering each angle. Each examinee has
their picture taken, ID is verified, and cell phones are secured to reduce
CSA provides a quality PVC photo ID card with the
individuals company name. Although we are testing the individual,
jurisdictions want the individuals company on the ID card. This
ensures the individual is working for the permitted contractor and not
getting paid under the counter to show up for another companies inspection.
Some general contractors also require that the ID card be displayed so that
they know their subs are qualified reducing chances of a stop-work order
CSA delivers standardized assessments, but also works with
jurisdictions to develop specific assessments around their needs. This
can include new subjects, or local amendments.
CSA strives to review and update questions within one year
following publication of new standards. Recognizing that many
jurisdictions may be one or two code cycles behind current editions, we try
to maintain most questions applicable to at least the last two editions.
New code items are specifically worded such as "Effective with the 2010
CSA requires re-testing on three year intervals.
Rather than requiring the individual to track training hours, projects, and
submit new documentation, we require they take a new test. This
reduces the paperwork burden for the individual and ensures that they are
keeping up with new standards.
As with other qualifications, many companies use CSA exams
as part of their internal promotion requirements.
This summarizes a few characteristics between different
options an AHJ has. Feel free to contact us for additional information.