Time for change

1ImagePlumbing surrounds the mechanics and maintenance of pipes and water distribution systems. The service’s plumbers provide in sanitation and clean drinking water are essential in life.

Plumbing is a technical trade and plumbers are expected to have knowledge into how they address problems with consumers and building owners. This involves having advanced technical knowledge of how to install and maintain water supply, water heating, drainage and energy efficient systems.
So where do you  fit in? Plumbers need to be aware of the risk of decisions they make as individuals and as plumbing companies. Diagram 1 illustrates the risks and ultimately the down fall of industry and communities as a result of non-compliance.


Getting started as a plumber
From the plumbers perspective it is their responsibility to ensure they have completed the necessary training and trades tests in order to lawfully begin practising.
However, there is greater responsibility for plumbing companies than there is for plumbers. As a plumbing company, it is important to employ qualified plumbers and ensure they are registered. It is necessary to understand no person may carry out any plumbing installations unless they are qualified or are under the supervision of a qualified plumber. There may be legal consequences for a plumbing company should they employ an unqualified plumber or if an unqualified plumber carries out work unsupervised. Ensure you or your plumber is registered. Registration is done through the Plumbing Industry Board (PIRB). PRIB is a professional body for plumbers as accredited by the South African Qualification Authority (SAQA).

Continual professional development
One of the main expectations set out for the registered plumber is continuous professional development. This requires plumbers to continuously acquire new and updated levels of knowledge and skills that will not only add measurable bene?ts to the practice of plumbing compliant with mandatory national standards and regulations, but also enhance and promote professional integrity of the plumbing industry. Additionally, maintain their own competence, the registered plumber should strive to contribute to the advancement and promotion of the plumbing industry, and to the profession in general. 

Compliant Products and compulsory standards
Not only is it important for the plumbing industry to employ registered plumbers, but also to use products approved by the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS). Due to increased competition and cheaper low quality products being introduced in the market, SABS provides a benchmark of minimum requirements for product performance standards. By ensuring the products are SABS approved, plumbers transfer the risk of blame if or when a product fails, unless failure is due to poor installation.

Should one come across users, importers and sellers of non-compliant products, it is important to expose these individuals. It is especially important to blow the whistle on these users if the products are dangerous or could cause harm. You can report such incidents by calling IOPSA on 08610 IOPSA or sending a confidential report via the IOPSA online help desk (www.IOPSA.org.za).     

For plumbers it is important to follow the national building regulations and compulsory standards. To not only ensure product compliance by design and installation standards.

Poor business practice- Fraudulent activities
There are many ways in which poor business practice may result from. Common ways unsustainable business practice results from include; ignoring the industry standards as indicated. Plumbing companies always looking for a way around compliance. Carrying insurance or public liability. Not quoting effectively or quoting on the lowest priced products. Failure to upskill and support your plumbers employed in order for them to continuously develop. Failure to comply with SARS and business legislative regulations. Customer service should always come first, and there should always be customer awareness.

Awareness for end users
IOPSA LOGO originalIt is important for end users to be aware of the benefits of hiring a registered plumber. In terms of the Consumer Protection Act, under Section 54 of the act, suppliers are obligated to provide timely performance and completion of services and give timely notice of any unavoidable delay in the performance of the services. These services also have to be performed in a manner and quality that persons are generally entitled to expect. This means if a consumer feels that the performance of the service was not up to standard, they can either require that the service provider remedy any defect (redo the work to a satisfactory standard) or refund the consumer a reasonable portion of the price paid for the services performed.

In terms of the Consumer Protection Act there is an important section for plumbers, Section 55. This deals with a consumer’s rights to safe, good quality goods. If a merchant supplies any goods to consumers then they need to be reasonably suited for the purpose for which they were intended, be of good quality and working order and be durable for a reasonable period.

Change is necessary in order for the sustainability of the plumbing industry and ultimately the plumbing business.

By Gary Macnamara, Executive Director of IOPSA
Edited by Melissa Brown