Is water safety being overlooked?
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: [email protected] or call 01708 472791.
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