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QP 3

SSPC QP3 Certification Program
(Shop Painting Certification Program)

The requirements for SSPC QP3SM are similar to those for SSPC QP1SM, except they are specifically focused on shop coating operations. SSPC QP3SM is a nationally recognized program that evaluates the practices of shop painting facilities in key areas of business. These standards are considered to be the MINIMUM level of service and quality for today's coatings industry. The complex nature of coating systems, the specific conditions and surface preparation required by these systems, have made the QP 3 guidelines vital to the longevity of protective coatings applied in the shop.

QP 3 is segmented according to the type of shop:

  • Enclosed Shop - A permanent facility, enclosure or building (four walls to grade and a roof) where surface preparation and coating activities are normally conducted in an environment not subject to outdoor weather conditions and/or blowing dust.
  • Covered Shop - A permanent facility, enclosure or building having a roof beneath where surface preparation and coating activities are normally conducted out of direct exposure to outdoor weather.
  • Open Shop - A permanent area or facility with no roof or walls where surface preparation and coating activities are normally conducted. The area or facility is exposed to outdoor weather conditions and blowing dust.


To be certified by SSPC, industrial contractors must demonstrate competence in several key areas:

  • Management Procedures
  • Technical Capabilities
  • Quality Control
  • Health, Safety and Environmental Compliance

Contracting firms are evaluated through a series of submittals to SSPC, which describe business operations. Then an impartial, on-site audit is performed at the contractor's headquarters and shop locations to verify the information provided in the application submittals.

More on-site audit information can be found in both the QP 3 Application and the Internal Audit Checklist. SSPC suggests that the contractor perform a self-evaluation using the checklist to be sure all areas are addressed prior to an audit.

This joint standard for certification of paint shops merges the requirements of the American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC) Sophisticated Paint Endorsement (SPE) and the SSPC-QP 3 standard into a single qualification standard that is used by both organizations. Each organization will continue to manage its own qualification program, auditing shops against the joint standard and using the same audit criteria. AISC will certify shops currently qualified as AISC Certified fabrication or manufacturing facilities.  SSPC will certify all other shop facilities. 

Owners should be aware that SSPC and AISC signed a Memorandum of Understanding in July 2010 recognizing AISC SPE certification and SSPC-QP 3 certification as equivalent.

Additional Information can be Found in the QP Applications & Forms box on the left side of this page: 

  • Applications / Program Rules for certification
  • Auditor Evaluation Survey
  • Contractor Performance Form
  • DAC
  • Job Notification Form
  • List of certified contractors
  • List of owners known to require certified contractors
  • Certification News Center
  • Technical Standards Library requirements