The plumbing industry has been dudded again
by Connection Magazines managing director Jeff Patchell.
As much as the plumbing industry tries to negotiate with the Government about the need to update regulations so that WaterMark product certification is effective at point-of-sale (POS) and suitable for the 21st century marketplace, it keeps getting knocked back.
What does this mean to plumbers, you might ask?
Currently, if you install any plumbing product that you believe to be a regulated/WaterMarked item but it’s not, then you carry the liability if the product fails, someone is injured or there is major flooding of a building as a result of that product.
If you purchased that product knowing full well that it was a cheapie ‘grey’ import or from a shonky local manufacturer, you wear the responsibility and you’ll get no sympathy from your insurance company or anyone else.
But the reality is that we live in changing times. 20th century regulation such as point of installation (POI) no longer meets the needs of a significantly disrupted supply chain. Furthermore, there is less and less site inspection on today’s building sites.
Supply channels are changing rapidly; builders and developers are buying more products and having plumbers install it. They are even bringing their own 40-foot containers of untested product in from overseas.
Then there’s the new phenomenon of online purchasing; that’s where the real cowboys are. We know that more and more consumers are purchasing expensive looking tapware or toilets from eBay, Amazon and other websites.
The problem for plumbers is that even if they didn’t actually purchase the non-compliant product, their action of installing it shifts the liability immediately to them. And by the time you have fought your way through the courts of the nation – you’ve probably lost your business, home and could also be dealing with mental health issues!
So why is this more topical then ever?
Last Friday, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) met in Adelaide for one of their ‘state-meets-federal’ discussions. You may have seen some snippets on the TV news about the National Energy Guarantee (NEG) plan and other important items on the national agenda.
On this occasion, an adjacent Building Ministers’ Forum (BMF) was also held. They discussed, among other things, Security of Payment Laws, the ongoing issue of Cladding and Point of Sale (POS) regulation of the WaterMark Certification Scheme for the plumbing industry.
Last year, the ABCB was tasked by the Federal Minister to review the issue of where product liability lays. Should it remain with the installer even though matters are out of their control, or should it change to POS methodology, like it is with other industry sectors? The plumbing industry has been pushing for this over a number of years.
Much time and money has since been spent. Someone from Government ran a consultancy review and industry was ‘consulted’. So, would the industry on this occasion finally kick a goal for commonsense POS WaterMark legislation? Unfortunately, the answer is no.
This simple statement from the BMF Communique on 10 August 2018 sums it up as follows:
“Ministers considered a report on the feasibility of point of sale (POS) regulation of the WaterMark Certification Scheme. The BMF agreed to pursue other actions to strengthen existing arrangements before considering POS regulations.”
So, the industry waits with baited breath to see what the ‘other actions’ are all about.
It seems that Governments these days are keener to save water than lives.
Look at the Water Efficiency Labelling & Standards (WELS) scheme for example. It is a very effective labelling scheme designed to educate and assist the community to select water efficient plumbing products and appliances. WELS was readily adopted by all state and territory governments back in 2004.
So for the time being, you are stuck with WaterMark legislation which is way too expensive to effectively police and regulate, and there’s a growing risk to consumers that products are not fit for purpose and some of it likely leaches lead into the drinking water.
If the inevitable did happen and we had another catastrophe (remember the Sydney Water Crisis of 1998 with the cryptosporidium outbreak), Governments would be in the same situation as with the recent cladding saga, looking for excuses.