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QP Program FAQ for Facility Owners


What categories of contractor certification does SSPC offer?


SSPC currently offers 3 categories of contractor certification:

  • QP 1 certification evaluates the competence of contractors to perform surface preparation and industrial coating application in the field;
  • QP 2 certification is a supplement to the QP 1 program and evaluates the competence of contractors to perform industrial deleading in the field;
  • QP 3 certification evaluates the competence of Shops to perform surface preparation and protective coating application in a fixed shop facility.

New supplemental categories for metallizing and coating concrete are in progress, as well as a special quality program supplement to QP 1 for critical applications service.


What do I get when I specify an SSPC Certified Painting Contractor?


There are several answers to this question:

  • you obtain the services of a professional, industrial painting contractor who has experience painting complex industrial structures; in the case of shop painting, you obtain the services of an experienced shop painting operation.

  • you obtain the services of a contractor or shop operation who is committed and confident enough of its abilities to allow an impartial third party (i.e. SSPC) to visit its primary place of business and an active work site to assess its capability to meet the standards, SSPC-QP 1, SSPC-QP 2 and/or SSPC-QP 3 requirements; Visit our Standards Store to obtain a copy.

  • you obtain the services of a company that has been evaluated by a professional auditor with coatings industry experience who has visited numerous (hundreds) of other painting contractors, job sites, and shop facilities;

  • you obtain the services of a contractor or shop that has developed and demonstrated compliance programs and practices for quality, safety and environmental protection during industrial painting operations;

  • you obtain the services of a contractor that has demonstrated competence in managing a professional industrial coating field or shop application operation.

What is the prime benefit of hiring an SSPC certified contractor?

Simply put, you are hiring an experienced contractor or shop who has demonstrated competence in key project areas. This increases the likelihood that your maintenance investment is sound - that the protective coatings work intended to protect your assets is completed within specification, and will achieve its expected service life without premature failure. Odds are increased that work will be done without safety and environmental compliance violations that may tarnish your company's image or put your company and your clients at increased risk.


How does SSPC evaluate a contractor for certification?

To become certified, the contractor or shop must:

  • complete a detailed application form describing its company and its work history;
  • submit quality control, safety and environmental compliance programs and procedures;
  • obtain SSPC acceptance of its submittal to ensure the submitted items are based on SSPC QP 1, QP 2 and QP 3requirements (field contractors only;
  • avail itself to an on-site audit by a SSPC auditor to both its primary place of business and an active job site to demonstrate its capabilities;
  • comply with a rigorously enforced Disciplinary Action Code (DAC).

How long does it take for a contractor to achieve certification?

It usually takes 1-2 months from the time the contractor submits its application to the time the SSPC audit is complete. However, it can take longer if the contractor's application or submittal is incomplete or needs clarification, or if the audit must be delayed to accommodate the contractor's project work schedules. SSPC requires observation of bona fide work in progress as part of each on-site audit - no exceptions!


What is the cost of certification to the owner and to the contractor?

There is no cost to the owner specifying SSPC certification. The cost of the certification is borne by the contractor. The SSPC contractor certification program is self-funding from fees paid by contractors. Certification fees for the contractor run from $5-8Kthe first year and $2-4K to maintain certification each year thereafter. All practicing contractors are eligible for SSPC certification, but only SSPC member contractors are eligible for discounts. The QP 1 and QP 2 audits can be done at the same time provided the QP 1 portion of the evaluation is done first in the sequence. This can significantly reduce the contractor's audit costs.


Which contractors are eligible for SSPC contractor certification?

All industrial painting contractors and shops, regardless of size, volume of work, markets worked in or affiliations, are eligible for SSPC certification provided they can demonstrate a six month production history of compliance with SSPC QP 1, and QP 2, and/or QP 3 requirements prior to their initial evaluation. The lists of SSPC certified contractors include large, medium and small businesses; those that paint bridges, storage tanks, structural steel or a variety of complex industrial structures, and those who may be minority or women owned. Shop certification fees are lower and run from 3-4K the first year.


Will it cost my organization more in terms of higher bid prices if I hire only certified contractors?

Not necessarily. Bids prices will reflect the requirements of the specification and the level of oversight (i.e., inspection) you as the facility owner intend to do to enforce specification requirements.


Does SSPC Certification guarantee the work of the contractor?

No. SSPC certification can only identify contractors who have demonstrated the myriad of capabilities required to conduct industrial painting operations according to good painting and safety practice. It is always in the best interest of facility owners and specifiers to write a good quality specification and monitor the contractor's performance through qualified inspection to enforce accountability. It is also in the best interest of all parties (i.e. the owner, inspector and contractor) to communicate with each other to resolve disputes and clarify ambiguous aspects of the job at all stages of the project.


Must a contractor be QP 1 certified to become QP 2 certified? What about QP 3?

Yes. The contractor must first demonstrate knowledge of the fundamentals of surface preparation and painting, as well as related quality control and safety fundamentals, (QP 1) to become QP 2 certified. However, you do not have to be QP 1 or QP 2 certified to become QP 3 certified. QP 3 is an independent program for paint shops.


If I want to specify SSPC certification for my next painting project, what services does SSPC provide to help me accomplish this?

SSPC offers free consultation to owners to help them implement the PCCP requirement into their coatings program. SSPC also has developed contract and bid notice language that you can use or modify to specify SSPC certification. SSPC will also conduct information meetings and training on certification requirements and standards, at the request of the facility owner, for contractors and agency officials where certification is being implemented.


As an owner, "How do we specifically make the PCCP part of our coatings program?

First, contact SSPC for assistance with implementing the Painting Contractor Certification Program at your facility. SSPC is willing to make presentations to management and contractors at no cost to explain certification requirements. Also, SSPC has "sample language" to help you develop contract language statements.


How many owners in the USA require SSPC's Painting Contractor Certification Program?

Currently, many State Departments of Transportation (DOTs) require SSPC certification for bridge maintenance and other painting. Within those states are many major city DOT's and county governments that require the PCCP as well for bridge, water tank, and waste and water treatment facilities requiring maintenance painting. Certification is also frequently specified on a one-time per job basis by specifiers who do not have ongoing painting programs. SSPC certification is also specified by many private owners.