Taking Water Safety More Seriously

Is water safety being overlooked?

Water Safety

In the PHAM News article below, Kevin Wellman of CIPHE talks about how seriously water safety is taken, looking at the level of training required compared with the mandatory level of training necessary for gas installers.

 

 

Water safety can often be overlooked or taken for granted, but potential risks should not be underestimated. Kevin Wellman, CEO of the CIPHE, puts the case for a more comprehensive approach to protecting the public and safeguarding the reputation of professionals.

It may be a shock to some that hot water scalding and Legionnaires’ disease is making a significant contribution to the number of fatalities and deaths in this country, on par with, and in some cases exceeding, the number of carbon monoxide related incidents in the UK. One reason for this is likely due to the fact that gas related tragedies in the home and commercial environments has long been recognised and publicised as a health risk. In addition industry has embraced legislation to affect changes that have saved many lives. Water safety on the other hand can be overlooked by both installers and homeowners who often do not realise the potential dangers of not properly managing water temperatures and bacteria.

At the CIPHE, we make a point of discussing water safety issues with our members, manufacturers, consumer organisations and trade bodies. After all, it is the job of the plumbing and heating industry, as a whole, to stamp out unscrupulous work. Only through education and bringing issues like water safety to the attention of the entire supply chain can we make progress and prevent the unnecessary and avoidable deaths of those using hot water systems which aren’t safe or suitable for them – this includes vulnerable users as well as the public at large. What we must remember is that nobody is exempt from the dangers of scalding and Legionaries’ disease, so the only real option is to ensure that the right steps are taken to actively stamp out the risk.

What can be done?

The reality is that there is lots that can be done to ensure water safety is front of mind – namely this can be achieved through education and ensuring that installers have access to relevant safety information and resources. This is vital to helping plumbing and heating professionals keep up to date with the latest standards and preventative measures covering water safety.

A part of this is addressing skills early on. Plumbing apprenticeships 100 years ago used to be seven years long; 50 years ago it was five years long; now there are schools of thought that specify just two years as being sufficient. This decrease in training, along with advancements in product technology, gives rise to the concern that not all of the trade can be fully competent.

Further, when you compare the level of mandatory training gas installers must undertake, for example the 5-6 days of training required each year under the Nationally Accredited Certification Scheme (ACS) in order to renew their licence every five years, unfortunately water safety just doesn’t have the same level of training required. As an industry, water regulations were produced back in 1999 with training happening on a voluntary basis. Therefore, the reality for water safety and training under current schemes means installers are under no obligation to update their skills. This is where the CIPHE and like-minded organisations come in to put pressure on current ways of working and encourage members to make a change.

The CIPHE’s CPD Charter is designed to ensure that skills, based on agreed competency requirements, are supported and met by plumbing and heating professionals who undertake training. The idea is that the public will benefit directly by professionals updating their skills on topics such as water safety on a regular basis. Our view is that professionals may have undertaken training at the very beginning of their career and if work isn’t done to support the ongoing development of skills, the industry will move on without them.

It is evident that a greater skilled workforce for installation and maintenance of hot water systems is needed, which is why I urge trade professionals to become involved with the CIPHE and take advantage of all the resources we have to offer.

For more information about water safety, to request the CIPHE’s Safe Water Guide, and for membership enquiries, please email: info@ciphe.org.uk or call 01708 472791.

R M Labels Water Labelling

At R M Labels we have a comprehensive range of products for marking up water pipework and systems; if you need help selecting the right product for the job, give us a call on 01348 840 675 and we will be happy to assist.

 

 

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Promote Regular Servicing and Maintenance

HVP have published an article about Alisdair Cumming’s move from the automotive industry to become research development manager at Baxi. The article explains how Alisdair believes drawing comparisons between boilers and cars can help installers encourage homeowners to commit to a regular maintenance programme.

It’s a familiar story, where installers warn of the need for regular servicing and maintenance, but the message doesn’t always translate into a language homeowners understand. While many people may not think twice about spending hundreds of pounds to keep their cars running smoothly, this often isn’t a process they equate with keeping the home boiler going.

Explaining how a complex piece of machinery such as a boiler works can be tricky, and cash-strapped homeowners may be reluctant to spend money on their heating system until there is a Regular Boiler Servicingproblem. While boiler manufacturers such as Baxi publish easy-to-understand leaflets to assist installers with this, explaining the similarities between a boiler and a car can be a useful way of getting the point across.

In this vein, a useful comparison is boiler operating hours versus miles driven. Running a boiler for over a year without a service is much like driving a care for 100,000 miles without a check-up- a risk few drivers would take. No motorist would expect their vehicle to achieve the same miles per gallon if it had not been serviced, whereas many homeowners are shocked if a neglected boiler starts to burn more fuel to heat their home.

Indeed, some homeowners may be unaware that foregoing regular boiler servicing can also present a greater risk to their family’s health and safety. This is partly due to a lack of public knowledge around the threat of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. Around 50 people die each year from CO poisoning and another 4,000 are treated in hospital. Given that the most common sources of excessive CO in the home are faulty gas appliances, these figures further demonstrate the necessity of annual servicing.

Another comparison that can be made is the effect missing a service can have on a warranty. Much like a car warranty or vehicle insurance, necessary maintenance must be conducted to retain protection, and an annual service is generally a condition of a boiler warranty.

In the same way homeowners would only trust a qualified mechanic to work on their car, they should also know the importance of only using a Gas Safe Registered engineer for any gas work – including servicing. The key difference here is government legislation. It’s critical any gas work is completed to the highest standard, but the law dictates it can only be completed by a Gas Safe registered professional, whereas there are no specific laws or ongoing training requirements relating to car mechanics.

Baxi encourages all reputable heating engineers to make a habit of showing their ID card before beginning work, to help educate homeowners on the importance of the scheme.

Not only does this ensure the safety of the homeowner, it also means their annual service is valid for warranty purposes. For a Baxi boiler to be eligible for a warranty it must be registered within 30 days of installation, and the Benchmark checklist must be completed. Once a new boiler is registered on our installer loyalty scheme, Baxi Works, we send out a yearly reminder on behalf of the installer, so the customer knows it’s time to arrange a service.

Ongoing homeowner education is just one of the ways the industry can work to improve gas safety. By making comparisons to familiar scenarios, such as car servicing, installers can help ensure the crucial message gets through loud and clear.

At R M Labels, we regularly bring to the attention of our readers any articles that encourage installers to promote their Gas Safe credentials to their customers. As a licensed supplier of Gas Safe products that are only available to Gas Safe registered installers*, we would suggest that all Gas Safe registered installers or heating engineers should include the Gas Safe logo and their registration number on information passed on to customers. These details can be added to annual service labels that can be applied to new boilers as they are installed. We all know how quickly time passes and it is easy for customers to forget when an annual service is due. Having a service label on the appliance will be a constant reminder of when the next service is due so that the date doesn’t get missed, and so causing the warranty to be invalidated.  Furthermore, displaying your information on the appliance will save your customers time trying to locate your details and will mean they are more likely to contact you first each time they need any working doing, rather than trying to find someone else.

Annual Boiler Service Label
Personalised Annual Boiler Service Label by R M Labels Limited

*Every time Gas Safe licensed products are sold by R M Labels, the purchaser’s details are checked on the Gas Safe Register to ensure they are a registered installer and their details match those given on the Gas Safe Register.

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