While plumbers are responsible for the installation, repair and maintaining of pipes, fixtures and other plumbing works for water distribution and wastewater disposal in various buildings, their role in the construction sector is ultimately very important “because plumbing protects the safety of people.”
Plumbing done right
According to Herman Strauss from the Plumbing Industry Registration Board (PIRB), plumbing is more than a convenience. “We know that not having water, or having blocked drains are a nuisance, but it is about much more than that,” he said. “Disease can spread through drainage pipework and affect communities.”
There has even been reports that the world’s latest health pandemic, the coronavirus (Covid-19) can spread this way.
“On the supply side, hot water is critically needed but if plumbing is not done right, geysers can explode and cause death and structural damage. If the water is not hot enough lethal bacteria like Legionella can spread causing the lethal Legionnaires’ disease. On the other hand, if the water at the tap is too hot it can cause potentially life-threatening scalding in seconds.”
Therefore, it is said that if plumbing is done right, it improves health and safety and make our lives better, while plumbing that’s been done wrong can have lethal implications on a large scale.
About the PIRB CoC
As the professional body for plumbers in South Africa, the PIRB is responsible for managing the CoC system. It is a legal requirement for a PIRB CoC to be issued when plumbing work is done on a geyser, a solar water heater or a heat pump. These certificates are ultimately issued by licensed plumbers to certify that their plumbing work complies with all regulatory installation requirements.
“We are fortunate that South Africa has very good plumbing standards that ensure the safety of the plumbing installations, Strauss explains. “This is provided that the above-mentioned standards are complied with.”
Strauss also says that to promote the level of such professional services, the South African Government is increasingly relying on professional bodies for the different industries to monitor the level of work done by its members.
“In the plumbing industry, CoCs are used by the PIRB to monitor plumbing work and to improve compliance to the legislative standards. When a plumber issues a CoC it is his legal self-declaration that the work is safe and complies with all requirements. Permanent records are held by the PIRB of all CoCs issued. The PIRB goes further to proactively audits a percentage of the CoCs issued.”
About the PIRB audits process
These audits were implemented because if the policing of standards and laws are left unchecked, it becomes meaningless. The PIRB appointed the Institute of Plumbing South Africa (IOPSA) to perform these audits on behalf of the PIRB.
Carrying out a physical inspection or audit ensures that plumbing regulations, standards and laws are upheld which creates fair, accountable and an equitable environment for all to operate in. That’s why 5% of CoCs are audited.
“If errors are identified, the plumber is compelled to return to site to fix it. In cases where the plumber was not up to date with the latest safety requirements, this helps to upskill the plumber so that future installations will be safe. In some cases, where plumbers were negligent, it allows for a disciplinary process to be followed against such plumbers.”
These audits ultimately create a reassurance that the CoC is not just a piece of paper. Therefore, it is clear exactly how the plumbing CoC and audit process play an integral part in the construction sector.