Hands-On Hints #5
The Devil in the Details

Submitted by Mike Ahlee, San Diego County Director


I'm sure you've heard the old saying, "Don't sweat the small stuff".  Well, when you're taking the "Hands-on" portion of the backflow prevention assembly tester certification exam, this old saying may get you in serious trouble.  There are several details that may seem small and unimportant that can actually be considered errors and thus cause for failure.

Here are a few of the more commonly missed details and the reasons they are considered errors:

First is paperwork.  The paperwork is just as important as the field test procedure.  If the field test report form is not properly filled out, it will be considered an error in your procedure.  Occasionally, we will see an applicant test a double check valve assembly and write the report on the reduced pressure principle assembly test form.  The information may be correct, but if it's on the wrong form, it is cause for failure.

The problem here is the applicant has misidentified the assembly by writing the results on the wrong form.  Each of the test forms is identified for a specific type of backflow prevention assembly - RP, DC or PVB. And coming soon to a test site near you....the SVB. The point is you must make sure you have filled out the proper field test form.

Next comes making sure the field test form is filled out properly.  The most common error I see has to do with applicants filling out the report form for the reduced pressure principle assembly.  The existing ABPA test form is a "one size fits all" test form.  The test forms for RP, DC and PVB all contain the exact same pre-printed information.  The only difference is the color of the paper and the heading on the page: RP, DC or PVB.  Sometimes while an applicant is testing the 2nd check of an RP assembly, they will write down a value in the 2nd check column of the report form.  Maybe they mistakenly thought they were looking at the pressure drop across the 2nd check, or maybe they are putting a value there just because there is a space provided for it.  Either way, the proctor must consider this an error.

Perhaps the powers that be should consider simplifying the test report forms?  Address comments to Michael Moss, ABPA Training Committee Chair, at (801) 536-0089 or by e-mail at msmoss@utah.gov.

Be that as it may, if the applicant records a value for the 2nd check during the standard test, it is cause for failure.  As long as the high side of the differential pressure gage is connected to test cock #2 and the low side is attached to test cock #3, the only value the gauge will show is the differential across the #1 check valve.

Believe it or not, the next two things are so simple, you wouldn't think anyone could ever miss them, but it happens. 

First is reporting the overall condition of the assembly; did it pass or fail?  On the bottom of the test form in BIG letters you find the words PASS and FAIL.  You must check one or the other.  If you fail to do this, it is cause for failure.  The second thing applicants will occasionally overlook is closing all test cocks, opening the shutoff valves and removing all test equipment prior to handing in their paperwork.  Even though this is something you would never forget in the field, you may be so relieved to be done with the field test procedures that you heave a sigh of relief, hand in your paperwork and say, "I'm done".

Oops! Unless you wrestle that clipboard away from the proctor, then turn the water back on and remove our equipment, you will be hearing those dreaded words "You have erred in your procedure".

As you can see, in the backflow certification business, some things that might at first glance seem insignificant can on closer inspection loom large.  So, if you do hear those awful words, don't focus solely on the physical aspects of the test.  Take a good look at the paperwork.  An error in your procedure can mean a paperwork error as well.

Here's hoping you never hear those words.

Happy testing.


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Comments to denise@socalabpa.org
Revised 06/16/2005 5:01 PM