The last day of the 2021 Fenestration and Glazing Industry Alliance (FGIA) Hybrid Fall Conference featured an update on the AAMA fenestration certification programs and how they have adapted to pandemic conditions and what future plans look like.

Jason Seals, FGIA’s certification services manager of fenestration, hosted the session. Seals manages the AAMA product certification, component verification and laboratory accreditation programs used by FGIA members and licensees.

He addressed the question of when the organization plans to resume inspections.

“This is something we think about all the time. Every time the curve goes up, we’re worried, and every time the curve goes down, we’re optimistic. And then we start that whole cycle over again.”

Situations looked positive this year, until the Delta variant became increasingly prominent. Since then, Seals said there are delays in when FGIA can expect to continue inspections.

According to Seals, a survey was sent in July to all of the certification programs’ participants.

“And we ask these questions: do you allow vendors on-site access to your plants? Would you allow our auditors to come in and conduct audits for the certification programs? Do you require an appointment to visit your facilities? What safety precautions or paperwork are required to visit and will any visitors be required to be vaccinated before they can access the property?”

He said the responses to these questions varied.

“We got about 75 responses to this survey, which is about 19%. I think we sent around 400 surveys… the results were very encouraging for the people who did respond. Sixty-nine of the 75 responses said they do allow visitors into their facilities, and then, even more, said that they would let us in to do audits.”

Of the 75 responses, 59 said they would require an appointment to visit the facility. “If we were going to start inspections up again, we would probably have to suspend some of our requirements to do an unannounced visit and, instead, make an appointment.”

There were also contrasts in the responses regarding safety precautions or paperwork that is required for visits.

Thirty-five said there weren’t precautions at all, aside from temperature checks and signing a waiver upon entering. Another 21 said there were requirements to wear masks while on-site. Seals also mentioned that 18 of the 75 responses said visitors needed to be vaccinated.

“So again, these are kind of mixed results. It is a good little snapshot of what may be going on in the industry and, keep in mind, this was in July of 2021.” However, after the survey was distributed, the Delta variant emerged and COVID cases and hospitalizations rose.

“Based on those survey results, the Delta variant, increasing cases, and the ever-changing landscape of state and local regulations, FGIA and [Associated Laboratories Inc. (ALI)] decided that we would go ahead and suspend on-site inspections until the end of 2022. We’re very hopeful, though, based on even more recent data with the cases coming down… that we’re going to be able to start up again in the first half of 2022…If we’ve learned anything in the last 18 months, we really can’t commit to anything right now.”

Seals said it’s unfortunate but necessary.

“It’s not the best service to our licensees. Having those third sets of eyes on the products and doing those audits is intended to help the licensees create a better product, he said.

“Being on-site is paramount. And we do intend to get out there as quick as we can,” Seals said.