Faked CSA Safety Testing in Canada

January 25th, 2015

We’re always pleased to make new friends, and lately we’ve made friends with some new CSA whistleblowers.  These folks, in the spirit of friendliness, furnished RestoreCSA with a clump of documents, all quite interesting.

While the new documents in our possession include CSA files and manufacturers’ correspondence and reports, and while we’ve been satisfied of their authenticity, for obvious reasons the identities of individuals and the particulars of products discussed below will be obscured. 

In the last two years, we have learned a lot about CSA testing.  Stories from inside CSA usually include falsified results, faked testing, sales of blank certifications, and commiseration on the victim’s feelings of helplessness throughout the whole sordid process.  Often, manufacturer’s products are required to have CSA certification prior to sale.  So the CSA can behave however it likes, and the manufacturer has to pay or they lose their businesses. 

The CSA has testing facilities around the world.  The biggest of these is in Cleveland, Ohio.  The CSA also runs testing facilities in China, a jurisdiction offering a lot less scrutiny of their conduct.  In Canada the CSA has only a handful of smaller testing facilities.  That’s odd, given that the CSA is a domestic Agency.  It’s as if Transport Canada’s staff were based in Barbados, it’s hard to justify.  Regardless, given the relative size of CSA’s testing footprint in Canada, until recently most of RestoreCSA’s inside information on testing has come from CSA’s Ohio facility.  That is, until now.

“Due to the new construction of the unit, the following tests were conducted with acceptable results.”  So began one company’s saga.  The CSA certification label is required for this Canadian company’s products.  No CSA label; no sales.  This has been their context for many years.

One day, a few years ago, the CEO of this company was dealing with his semi-annual headache of CSA interaction.  “The CSA is a bunch of prima-donnas,” he says, their arrogance is incredible, it was always “take it or leave it,” it didn’t matter if CSA’s demands made technical or legal sense.  On this CEO’s desk was a pile of CSA paperwork going back for years.  Many years actually, his company is a Canadian institution.  In flipping through the pages, he happened upon a CSA test report for one of his products, it contained a long list of temperature data test results.  These are pretty basic things, they look like this:

Temperature in degrees C

[aspect A] - 65
[aspect B] - 47
[aspect C] - 110
[aspect D] - 71
(etc.)

The product test report he was reviewing contained more than a dozen of these temperature test results, each one for a different component of this product.  All the results were within acceptable ranges, the tested product had passed and had achieved CSA certification.  Thus far, all is well.

Then the CEO, still flipping through pages, by chance happened to pull a different year’s test report for the same product.  So, same product, same components, same tests, different year.  Here’s what it looked like:

Temperature in degrees C

[aspect A] - 65
[aspect B] - 47
[aspect C] - 110
[aspect D] - 71
(etc.)

These two tests, in different years and across all ranges of components, generated results that were absolutely identical.  And that’s not possible. 

The particulars of this product are such that its temperature test results are highly susceptible to external factors.  That is, the humidity will affect the test results, so will barometric pressure.  For this kind of product, these variations are normal, they’re entirely acceptable and expected in any temperature testing.  With this kind of product, the only way to achieve identical temperature test results is to have identical external conditions during the testing.  When was the last time that the temperature in your neighbourhood, and the humidity levels, and the barometric pressure, were all identical, for hours on end, on successive days?  RestoreCSA tried to find an instance of such an occurrence in Canada and failed to find one so, you know, its so rare as to be unheard of.

Alright, that’s bad enough, but it gets even worse.  How so?  Well, the two test reports found by the CEO were submitted eighteen years apart.  Yes, you read that right. 

So how did the CSA achieve identical test results, eighteen years apart, from a product so susceptible to external factors?  Well, that was the CEO’s question.  It appears that the CSA’s test results in the first year of testing were just duplicated, transcribed from one year to the next, in each cycle of annual testing for the next seventeen years.  Or to put things more bluntly, this company paid for eighteen years of testing but there was only ever one test performed on their product.

Unfortunately, we’ve heard from a variety of CSA insiders who’ve confirmed that falsifying test results is CSA’s standard practice.  And tragically, that means that consumer products bearing the CSA label are likely to be entirely untested and potentially quite dangerous.  It’s a con job on the public and a shakedown of industry.

The CEO was upset.  Quite upset, as it happens, and vented to CSA.  “I accused them of not testing at all,” he said, “they were trying to ‘correct’ the test” to make things believable.  But how could CSA “correct” a test result without retesting?  Either the reported result was based on actual testing or it was fabricated, right?  The CEO rightly pointed out that “changing the report would not serve any purpose.”  After all, product safety testing is about verifying safe products, not rigging the paperwork to match.

The CSA kept insisting that this company’s product had, indeed, been tested and that the eighteen years of identical results were entirely accurate, however astounding a series of improbable coincidences that accuracy may be.  Replied the CEO, “Sir, I would defy anyone to run a temperature test two days in a row and get exactly the same results, let alone [several] years later!” 

Then the CEO demanded copies of the full test reports of his products.  His demand was refused.  Apparently the CSA regards the test data of various companies’ products as proprietary to the CSA, rather that proprietary to the owner of those products.  However absurd, manufacturers aren’t allowed to access their own products’ testing data, even though they paid for that data.

Of course, the CSA attitude is explainable;  The CSA has no test data for that year because there was never any testing, so the CSA can’t deliver the data because the data doesn’t exist.  That’s the unacknowledged, yet fully understood, reality in the industry.

All of this is a terrible disservice to the public.  In the name of safety, a public Agency is skipping safety testing, then fabricating the results.  This conduct is also a massive waste of money and an unnecessary burden on manufacturing in Canada. 

“My conclusion is that CSA did not test our units as claimed and relies on turning out a lot of paper to justify its charges.  My opinion is that the consumer is not being protected and Canadian business is being charged tens of millions of dollars by CSA’s papermill.” 

That’s our conclusion too.  Added one whistleblower, “its amazing that the Government allows this corruption to continue.”  Well, its not that amazing, the CSA reports to Industry Canada, and the Minister thereof is James Moore.