Sadly employing an apprentice plumber has become an expensive luxury for many small plumbing companies throughout Australia. This is due to the complexities of the Fair Work Act, to their high wages and the length of time away from work on holidays and at TAFE training.
This has been further exasperated by the explosion in sub-contracting with 65% of all plumbing businesses being a one-person operation who employ no staff at all.
As an industry, if we don’t train for the future, then we have no future. This is why we at Whywait Plumbing have always made it a policy to employ and train at least three apprentices at any given time. Even throughout the GFC in 2008-10, we maintained employment and training for four apprentices.
If you go to university, you don’t get paid and incur a hex debt that you eventually payback for your study. However, if you become an apprentice plumber, your employer pays you for the entire four years of your training, every week, with annual increases.
Currently, the archaic document that purports to be a ‘Modern Award’, the Plumbers and Fire Sprinklers Award 2010 requires a first-year apprentice plumber who has completed year 12 to be paid $13.18 per hour. If the apprentice plumber is aged over 20, he starts on $19.07 an hour. Compare this with how much you will get paid to attend university in the first and subsequent years.
Apprenticeship numbers have been declining for the last 20 years. Much of the reason for this is due to decisions 20 years ago to focus everyone at high school on obtaining a university education. This has lead to many young people graduating with degrees and then being unable to gain employment in their chosen field of study.
The importance of well-trained plumbers to society as a whole cannot be underestimated. Plumbing as a trade will continue to exist and ensures young people taking up apprenticeships will always have a good job and a good future.
Interestingly apprenticeship completions at 64% is almost on par with university graduations of 67%. In plumbing, 80% of those who never finish their apprenticeship drop out in the first two years.
This decline in numbers of plumbers as a whole available to be employed has been brought home to us in recent months. We have been advertising for two licensed plumbers at that time, and these are fulltime jobs, not casual or sub-contract. It’s been alarming at how few plumbers applied for the job. Interviewing potential employees has been an intriguing and challenging exercise.
Dillon Lowes installing new sewer pipes at Niecon Plaza
We have employed two new employees in the last month as an apprentice plumber and welcome to Whywait Plumbing, Scott Moir and Dillon Lowes.
Unlike many of our competitors, we don’t employ sub-contractors, so everyone who works at Whywait Plumbing is a full-time employee. That means everyone working here is paid for six weeks of annual and personal leave plus two weeks of statutory holidays. Sub-contractors don’t receive those benefits plus they have to pay their own superannuation and work cover.
The combination of a reduction in plumbing businesses employing an apprentice plumber and the numbers of plumbers retiring means there is a shortfall of 13% between the number of plumbers available and the demand for plumbers.
All of these issues are increasing the cost of employing plumbers. This, in turn, increases the cost for plumbing businesses to undertake work across the board in both construction and maintenance. Ultimately it’s always a balancing act between supply and demand.
A combination of disposable wipes, paper towels and toilet paper blocking a drain because they were unable to break down in water.
Plumbing urban myths abound these days with social media and media sensationalism.
For the plumbing technicians at Whywait it’s frequently hard to get clients to understand factual information because they have Googled their problem and found what is, in reality, a plumbing urban myth that seems to fit.
Unfortunately, plumbing urban myths abound and below are a few popular myths and the real facts:
- Myth – disposable baby, kitchen or bathroom wipes and paper towels can be flushed down a toilet. Fact – The photo above is a pipe full of disposable wipes, paper towels and toilet paper that shows they don’t break down and degrade like toilet paper but pile up inside the drain and block your entire sewer drainage system.
- Myth – loud banging noises in a hot water service are a warning sign that it is about to burst and leak. Fact – unfortunately, there are no real warning signs that a hot water service is about to start leaking. If you do hear banging or rumbling noises coming from the actual storage tank it indicates that the loose minerals in the sediment in the bottom of the tank are causing air bubbles during the heating cycle and that in reality, your hot water service needs a 5 yearly service that includes flushing the tank of sediment.
- Myth – Thomas Crapper invented the toilet. Fact – No he did not invent it but made it work better with the flushing mechanism.
- Myth – Water flushes in a toilet clockwise in Australia in the southern hemisphere but anti-clockwise in Germany in the northern hemisphere. Fact – No the actual design of the toilet bowl dictates which direction water flushes as such a small amount of water is not affected by the Coriolis Effect.
Myths are often fun but the reality is plumbing urban myths can be dangerous if taken as factual which is why plumbing problems should always be diagnosed and repaired by a licensed plumbing contractor.
Plumbing myths are money spinners for us at Whywait Plumbing. But we wish they weren’t and you called us for advice first.
So often many of our service calls to blocked drains, broken water main pipes or flooded houses are caused by common plumbing myths and could have been avoided.
Our plumbing technicians constantly see the following plumbing myths causing problems that should never have occurred:
1. You used chemicals from the supermarket to “clear” a blocked drain
Forget using chemicals such as Draino to clear a blocked drain because they never work. Even if by some miracle they do the problem will return that is a guarantee. There is no DIY solution to a blocked drain and its scary for our plumbers to work on a drain full of harsh and dangerous chemicals. If your drains are gurgling or slow to drain contact us for advice but please don’t waste money on chemical solutions.
2. You think the toilet is a rubbish bin as well
Don’t be fooled by labels that say they’re “flushable” because sanitary napkins, cleaning wipes, paper towel’s, toilet scrubbers, make-up remover pads or pet litter to name a few are in reality not suitable for flushing down the toilet. Very simply they don’t disintegrate quickly enough in the low flows of water flushed through the toilet and eventually will block your homes sewer drain.
3. You think advice from the nice man at Bunnings is all you need to fix plumbing problems yourself
Yes we know its easy to take a photo of your plumbing problem then go down to Bunnings and show the nice man there who will try to diagnose and fix the plumbing problem on the spot and sell you all the parts to do it yourself. We see this every weekend when our plumbing technicians go out to repair these DIY stuff ups. Remember the nice man or lady at Bunnings are not plumbers they are retail shop assistants with no qualifications. Calling Whywait the first time is frequently the cheapest option because as we constantly see DIY jobs are seldom repaired correctly and continue to give problems until we repair it.
4. You don’t have a leak protection or water monitoring system
These days a water leak protection system is not expensive, frequently costing less than the excess on your insurance claim. For Whywait to install a water leak protection system that prevents flooding with a main water shut-off should a leak occur in your water main, internal water pipes, hot water heater, dishwasher, laundry washing machine and more guarantees your home with a lifetime of protection.
5. Your hot water heater will last forever and never needs maintaining
Don’t be fooled into thinking your hot water heater will last forever because the average life of a Rheem or Dux HWS is 7-12 years. Yes you can extend their life by regular maintenance but you must have a regular preventative maintenance programme rather than waiting until a leak occurs because by then its too late. It is almost inevitable that your lack of maintenance will result in a leak while you are on holiday or while you are sleeping.
Remember plumbing problems never go away until proper repairs are undertaken.
Plumbing guarantees are a source of constant confusion. A guarantee of the fixtures and fittings installed is always carried by the manufacturer not the plumber who installed them. Ultimately all a plumber can guarantee is his workmanship and service levels.
When you use Whywait Plumbing we guarantee you many things and we stand behind all those guarantees because we want you to have a positive experience. At Whywait Plumbers Gold Coast, we enjoy a 95% customer satisfaction rating and this is why:
- We show up on time.
- We send only licensed and trained plumbers to your home, each one a full-time Whywait employee.
- Training and development are ongoing events for every member of our staff.
- You receive a guaranteed up-front price before we start any work.
- Our equipment and tools are the latest and best in the business which helps us do our job better and with a better end result.
- We keep our trucks well-stocked enabling us to complete most repairs with just one visit to your home.
We’re ensure you and our team members are protected by:
- Maintaining public liability insurance coverage for $20,000,000 that protects your property should a part fail in your home or business.
- Maintaining WorkCover insurance cover should one of our employees have an accident.
- Providing warranty protection on the jobs we undertake for you.
- Ensuring we are fully licensed as plumbing contractors in Queensland and New South Wales.
- Investing in state of the art communications systems to answer your calls and dispatch our plumbers to your home or business.
- Investing in modern vehicles that are correctly maintained.
- Complying with the Fair Work Act.
- Responding promptly on a 24 hour, 7 day basis to customers who call us in a crisis because they have a water leak, a blocked drain or have no hot water.
I urge you to ask questions about how you will be charged for plumbing services, insurance coverage and licensing before deciding which plumbing company to hire. Because the more you ask, the more you’ll see that our family-owned and operated company stands head and shoulders above the rest in true value offered.
By Gary Mays
Fire is a likely consequence of DIY electrical or gas fitting.
Voiding insurance coverage is the risk you take every time you decide you can undertake your own plumbing, gas fitting or electrical repairs or installation.
Sure the rules and regulations differ slightly between each state in Australia but essentially there are no grey areas in the laws in each state because its completely black and white legally that when it comes to working on the plumbing, gas or electrical systems in your home or business you must be licensed.
Here at Whywait Plumbing every week we deal with the consequences of the weekend warriors who go to Bunnings or Masters and are convinced they can do it themselves after getting advice from a shop assistant. Usually the consequences are that we have to rip everything out and start again.
Everyone in the plumbing industry be it plumbers, manufacturers or council inspectors do not need convincing that DIY plumbing is no good for anyone and most of all it is ultimately no good for the general public. Unless you have a licence you are not insured to undertake plumbing, gas or electrical work.
What they don’t tell you at Bunnings or Masters when selling you all the plumbing pipes and fittings is that it is illegal to undertake you own plumbing. Certainly they do not inform you that DIY plumbing, gas or electrical work will most likely void your home insurance policy in the event of a insurance claim.
There are some plumbing tasks you can legally undertaken without a plumbers licence in Queensland and they are limited to:
- Replacing a shower head or shower rose
- Replacing a tap washer or jumper valve
- Replacing a domestic water filter cartridge
- Replacing a washer in a toilet cistern inlet or outlet valve
- Installing, repairing or maintaining garden irrigation system
- Cleaning or repairing the grate to a drainage gully trap
- Replacing a cap on inspection opening to a drain
These plumbing tasks listed are all you can do without running the risk of voiding your insurance cover. More importantly there are no gas fitting or electrical tasks you can legally undertake that will not void your insurance cover. Listed below are links and warnings from Queensland Government and Allianz Insurance.
Queensland Building and Construction Commission (QBCC)
|Using licensed plumbers and drainers is the simplest and most effective way of ensuring that plumbing work complies with regulations to minimise unnecessary risk to your family’s health and safety. Rectifying defective or non-compliant work can be far more expensive than the original cost. As a consumer, using an appropriately qualified plumber or drainer will help to protect you and your family as well as your bank account.
|Illegal DIY work can put you at risk of extra costs, injury or death. Leave electrical or plumbing work to qualified professionals. Some of us enjoy a spot of weekend DIY. Others are less enthusiastic but do the fix-ups anyway. And while there are many benefits of doing-it-yourself such as saving on labour costsi, there are safety and legal reasons why the majority of plumbing and electrical tasks need to be left to the professionals. DIY jobs can put you and other people at risk of injury or death. And if you don’t get something done right, you could end up putting people at risk and damaging property in the future.
We recommend that you should avoid DIY plumbing, gas or electrical as frequently you end up costing yourself more with the problems never being repaired.
By Gary Mays
Negligence causes plumbing emergencies as a fact I am becoming acutely aware of with over half of the plumbing emergencies we attend having been caused due to a plumbers negligence in the initial installation.
A large part of this negligence is driven by plumbing work being undertaken to a cost and not to the legislative requirements or standards that plumbers are legally obliged to comply with.
As I constantly have to remind clients who are victims of this negligence in near new or recently renovated buildings – everyone who worked on your home did so because they were the cheapest not because they were the best qualified and skilled to undertake the work. Sadly that is the reality in the construction industry.
The most common plumbing emergencies we see that are in most cases attributable to deliberate negligence by the plumber who did the initial work are:
- leaking water-mains laid in rock and backfilled with rock with no compliant bedding or backfill material
- broken house sewer drains once again laid in rock and backfilled with rock
- mixer taps installed without isolation valves
Negligence by a plumber in installing the examples above are just the tip of the iceberg that we see daily but all cause a great deal of damage and are frequently expensive to repair.
The pressure by builders on plumbers to reduce prices and take “shortcuts” increases daily but is not an excuse to ignore undertaking the work in as set out in AS3500 and called into law through the Plumbing and Drainage Act 2002.
Under common law, the term “negligence” generally describes damage causing conduct that arises because of the defendant’s carelessness or failure to take reasonable care.
As an example, a plumber who installs a plastic polypipe water main straight onto the rocky ground and then backfills it with the same spoil he dug out has breached his duty of care. As a professional licensed plumber, he is fully aware that the job is not in accordance with clause 5.12 of AS3500 Part 1 for Water Services which states:
The water services shall be surrounded with not less than 75mm of compacted sand, or fine-grained soil, with no hard edged object permitted to come into contact with or resting against any pipe or fitting.
Material used for final backfill shall be free from rock, hard matter or organic material and be broken up to contain no soil larger than 75mm.
As you can see the wording and diagram in Australian Standards are quite specific on how your water main should be installed. They are specific requirements under law not options the plumber can choose to obey.
Very simply if your water main is not installed as above the licensed plumber installing it has done so knowing it is noncompliant and that it is reasonably foreseeable that failure and damage will occur.
In conclusion, I reiterate that most plumbing emergencies are caused by negligence and we are prepared to assist you if you have the willpower to legally seek compensation. It’s your choice but the industry will only be cleaned up when plumbers who continually break the law are hit in their hip pocket.