World Plumbing Day is on 11 March every year and in 2018 that is this Sunday. Established by the World Plumbing Council, (WPC) in 2010 it is now celebrated around the world to promote the critical links between proper plumbing sanitation and human and environmental health.
As the World Health Organisation continually promote ‘Plumbing is Public Health’. This is further reinforced through a survey of 11000 doctors by the prestigious British Medical Journal in 2007 that voted overwhelmingly that the world’s most significant medical milestone since 1840 was sanitation. This was despite all the incredible medical breakthroughs in that time. Doctors recognised that the installation of a reliable sewage disposal system and a reliably clean water supply was judged the most significant medical advance in modern times.
Plumbing is Vital to Your Health
We take a toilet for granted that we even work while using it
Sadly in Australia and many other developed countries, we take our plumbing and sanitary drainage systems for granted.
We think its normal to turn on a tap and get a constant supply of clean drinking water. We think nothing of going to the toilet and flushing the cistern when finished. We believe having a long hot shower is normal for everyone.
In many countries, a plumbing infrastructure that we have here in Australia is only a dream. In too many countries right now plumbing at best is very basic and at worst downright non-existent. In these countries the consequences of poor plumbing infrastructure cause millions of people to die.
The statistics are scary and should make us reflect in Australia on our appreciation of our plumbing and sanitary drainage infrastructure. According to the World Health Organisation:
- every 15 seconds a child dies from a water-related disease
- patients suffering from water-related diseases occupy half of the worlds hospital beds at any given time
- 3,100,000 children die every year from water-related diseases
- 1,100,000,000 people do not have access to a safe, reliable water supply
- 2,600,000,000 people do not have access to a sanitary toilet system
Plumbing Infrastructure Would Improve Every One of These Statistics
In Australia, few people pay any attention to the skills and expertise from plumbers to ensure that a buildings plumbing infrastructure is engineered to function with little fuss. It is even sadder that few people appreciate the ramifications of poorly installed plumbing infrastructure.
Plumbing infrastructure in Australia has always been at the leading edge of the technology as it continues to develop. Fortunately, all plumbers in Australia have to be licensed which ensures plumbers are legally responsible for complying with the Plumbing Code of Australia and relevant state legislation. This is not the case in many other countries with unskilled people installing poor quality infrastructure.
Plumbing is vital to everyone’s health and deserves to be respected for its essential role in promoting the link between proper quality plumbing, health, environmental sustainability and economic prosperity.
Without plumbing, none of us could live in a healthy environment in our large urbanised, densely populated cities. If you don’t believe me see how long you could survive in a house without working plumbing.
Respect For Plumbers and Their Skills
I continually hear many plumbers complaining that clients don’t treat them with respect and value their skills or the work they perform. But the reality is far too many licensed plumbers don’t respect themselves, their skills or their licences and are in a race to the bottom undervaluing and underselling the services they provide.
Plumbers who act as professionals and treat their clients with respect and above all respect their licences will always be treated with respect in return.
Fear of Bunnings and Masters getting too strong was brought home to me when attending the World Plumbing Council meetings and Singapore International Water Week in Singapore in July 2014. A question that many Australians are starting to ask is should we fear letting Bunnings and Masters getting too strong?
This was the first time I have attended a World Plumbing Council meeting and was doing so as an individual member plus as an observer from Master Plumbers & Mechanical Services Association of Australia, (MPMSAA).
For me personally, the overwhelming impression after two days was the commonality of issues worldwide. Countries such as India and China admire and would love to have:
- our professional plumbing standards and laws
- our training regime inclusive of apprenticeships
- our licensing of not only plumbing companies but individual plumbers
- our regulation of all things regarding plumbing, drainage and gas fitting
- our product regulation and safety whereas all plumbing products must be WaterMark certified
In an equally perverse way countries such as Australia, UK, USA and Canada are deeply concerned about a trend in all jurisdictions that are essentially dumbing down the plumbing industry with the common thread being:
- reducing training standards
- deregulating or removing licensing
- reducing downward regulation standards
- tolerating more and more DIY plumbing
- reducing or eliminating product regulation
Unfortunately, in Australia, we take plumbing for granted because our high standards, training, regulations and enforcement of laws mean that unlike many other developing countries people simply do not die from poorly installed plumbing in Australia.
In many countries, strong plumbing regulations have made the world a much safer place. But with that safe environment that plumbing has created has come complacency to the degree that we only appreciate plumbing when we don’t have it.
In the USA this complacency has been capitalised on by large corporations who have built large hardware box store warehouses importing product from all around the world. They have lead the charge to dumb down plumbing standards so they can sell more plumbing products to the public at a much higher profit.
In Australia, we see the emergence of this same pattern lead by Bunnings (Coles) and Masters (Woolworths).
In Australia, much of the reduction in standards is trumpeted by politicians as a reduction in red tape, but in reality, it’s removing public health standards that have protected the general population for 150 years.
Acutely merely reducing public health standards is not a reduction in red tape but the caving in of bureaucrats and politicians to lobbyists who convince them our laws and regulations are too strong and are too restrictive.
Already you see Bunnings adopting the American models of offering full supply and installation of product squeezing the margins of manufacturers and plumbers to the absolute limit and advertising the following ….”gas and electric hot water systems. From just $249* we will arrange your standard installation for you, and if you need an emergency replacement system, we will also organise that to be installed.”
It is utterly impossible to legally and compliantly replace an existing hot water system for $249 (or what is, in reality, $226 exclusive of GST), and Bunnings know it, which is why they have the asterisk after the price which states…. “*Additional costs do apply beyond standard installation. For information on licensing, please view details here.” If you click on those links, it leads you to download a three-page document which is full of exclusions. Very simply the $249 price is entirely false but is designed to get you to buy from Bunnings without checking the details.
After listening to the issues raised by delegates from USA and Canada, we have much to fear if we let Bunnings and Masters get too strong. Already we have seen the effects in the continuous limit of choice in supermarkets, and now we are on the verge of seeing it in the hardware industry. Imagine an Australia where Bunnings and Masters control the plumbing industry:
- DIY is rampant leading to lower house prices and higher insurance policy costs
- fewer skilled jobs leading to fewer apprenticeships
- licensed plumbers working at subsistence levels based on rates decided by Bunnings or Masters as occurs in the USA where a journeyman plumber in LA is paid $20000 a year
- limited choice of product
- no Australian manufacturing further decreasing career choice and leading to increasing unemployment
We need to ensure politicians understand the implications of dumbing down plumbing because the SARS outbreak and the current Ebola virus are a warning of what faulty plumbing can create. Virus’ are every changing, ever mutating and as Indian and China are only too well aware that strong plumbing regulations guard your health.