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Revised Coating and Lining Application Specialist Training and Certification Standard

If you are a stakeholder in the protective coatings and linings industry, for example a coatings installer in transportation infrastructure, oil and gas, the military, etc., you need a copy of the 2016 revised NACE No. 13/Society for Protective Coatings (SSPC) Applicator Certification Standard (ACS) 1: “Industrial Coating and Lining Application Specialist Qualification and Certification.”

The standard includes up-to-date information for qualifying the coatings and linings installer, also known as an application specialist, through a broad range of classroom instruction and associated work experiences, and it is a tool that every stakeholder who writes project specifications, hires, and/or trains coating and lining application specialists should have on hand.

What Is an Application Specialist?

The application specialist is defined in the standard as an individual who engages in surface preparation and application of protective coatings and linings.

Why Is the Certified Application Specialist Important?

The trained and certified application specialist has the knowledge and skills to drive the quality control of a coatings or linings project from the surface up. If the surface isn’t prepared properly before application, or the coating or lining isn’t applied skillfully, the job quality will most likely suffer, leading to costly repairs as a result of premature coating or lining failure.

“Contrary to what many people think, quality control is not in the hands of the inspector,” said Gil Rogers, general manager, Alberta Coating Contractors Association. Rogers is a NACE member and chair of the NACE/SSPC joint Task Group (TG) 320 that recently revised the standard.

“Inspectors only check or confirm quality, whereas the coating applicator is the one who actually controls the quality of the [surface preparation and the coating or lining] application. This makes NACE No. 13/SSPC-ACS-1 a game changer in that regard,” said Rogers, who started out as a painter about 40 years ago and gained journeyman status in 1977.

Anton Ruesing, executive director of Finishing Trades Institute, NACE member and a member of TG 320, agreed that developing training and certification programs for application specialists is an important step for the trade. “I think this certification will help others (owners, contractors, government agencies, etc.) see the critical nature of proper surface preparation and coating application. What coating and lining applicators do protects the infrastructure in our country from literally crumbling around us.”

How Does This Standard Add Value?

The standard provides the criteria for developing a quality certification program. There are three qualification levels plus specialty endorsements, and an extensive Body of Knowledge table is provided as guidance for developing or assessing a training program to train and certify application specialists.

1. Qualification Level I requires a basic knowledge of industrial coatings, linings, and safety;

2. Level II requires detailed knowledge and skills of industrial coatings and linings; Specialty Endorsements requires Level II, plus detailed knowledge and skills of specialty areas, such as coating concrete, waterjetting, electrostatic spray, specialty pipeline coating installations, etc.; and

3. Level III requires Level II, plus three or more specialty endorsements.

What’s in It for the Applicator?

Beyond the benefits for owners, contractors, etc., of hiring a skilled applicator, the industrial painter now has a career roadmap that incorporates his or her experience into a training program that leads to a certification.

“This is not the industry or the contractors’ certification program, it is the painters’ training and certification program,” said Jeff Theo, vice president, Business Development at Vulcan Group Inc. Theo is a NACE member, SSPC member, and TG 320 vice chair representing SSPC on the joint committee to revise the standard.

“By finishing an application specialist’s training program based on this standard, the painter can receive a certification and become a specialist in a growing field that may offer job security and better pay,” Theo said. “Think of it as a diploma in coatings application.”

Ruesing, who has been a painter for 20 years, agreed with Theo. He said the standard provides painters with something in which they can take pride. “For experienced painters, the certification is something emblematic of the lifelong journey towards being a master craftsman, a token of their experience and hard work; and for the young and inexperienced painter, it is something to focus on, a level of achievement to which they can strive,” he said.

What Does the Future Look Like?

With a current shortage of trained and certified coatings and linings applicators, there may be a better job market for certified application specialists as more critical contracts are awarded, for example, to meet the demands to improve the country’s transportation infrastructure, maintain pipelines, and for capital improvements in other industries.

Theo, who has worked in the industry for about 39 years, said the training programs developed from this standard may open doors for the unemployed, as well as men and women returning from military service, to become trained and certified. The training and certification programs developed from the standard may also help with worker retention.

“The chance to earn more money may appeal to those applicators that are considering a career change, or want to upgrade their skills instead of leaving the industry,” Theo said. “The advantages of continuing education are well known, and this standard offers coating applicators the chance to grow individually.”

Now that the revised standard is published, the next hurdle is convincing industry stakeholders to buy into the need to hire certified applicators and/or develop certification programs to train application specialists. But equally as important is for those who write project specifications to require certified application specialists on the jobsite.

Some progress has been made in this direction, but the industry now finds itself in a sort of “What came first: the chicken or the egg?” dilemma. Now that the standard is in place to develop certification programs, the industry must catch up by actually training and certifying applicators in order to meet the demands in project specifications.

As Rogers explained, “Because the certification is relatively new and the number of certified individuals is not currently adequate to meet the industry’s demands, NACE No. 13/SSPC-ACS-1 is being written into specifications as a ‘preferred’ requirement; however, as the number of tradesmen carrying the certification grows, this will change and the standard will be written into specifications as a requirement.”

For a copy of the standard, click here. For more information, contact: NACE International, (800) 797-6223,

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