Plumber bodies in SA at loggerheads

Through Edward West Time of article published38m ago

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Plumbers in South Africa are at odds, with two organizations facing the very legitimacy of the person calling you to fix your pipes or geyser.

The Inclusive Plumbing Association (IPA), which claims to have some 900 members, has raised the alarm about the hijacking of the industry’s technical standards, certification and skill requirements monitored by the Plumbing Industry Registration Board (PIRB), a – legal association.

IPA Chairman Geoff Snelling said the PIRB had somehow managed to get the SA Bureau of Standards (SABS) to include membership in PIRB, including requiring its members to have Continuous Professional Development (CPD) earn points to meet the technical standards and certification requirements required by all valid plumbers.

Snelling said this amounted to forcing plumbers to become paid members of the PIRB, including completing webinars and other professional learning materials for a fee from the PIRB to earn their Continuing Professional Development (CPD) points.

This meant that plumbers who were not fully registered with the PIRB and who did not meet the CPD point requirements were not legally allowed to sign the installation of geysers, which was a major source of regular income for plumbers, he said.

In addition, the PIRB’s scrutiny of industry certification had put the plumbing work out of the control of municipal authorities, Snelling said.

The IPA had organized a protest march to the SABS building in Cape Town in February to address these issues, he said.

The SABS said in response to questions from Business Report that their standards development committee was aware of the issue.

The committee would refer the matter to the SABS standard approval committee for resolution, the SABS said.

PIRB Chairman Lea Smith said the IPA was trying to destroy the PIRB’s longstanding efforts to “shut down the grid to unqualified plumbers.”

Smith said that about 12 years ago, municipalities supervised plumbing, but this had dropped except in two municipalities: Cape Town and Durban.

To counter a growing number of unqualified “bakkie plumbers”, a voluntary membership organization, the Institute of Plumbing of SA, established the PIRB to certify the industry so that consumers could be assured that a plumber was competent to do the work, Smith said.

He said the PIRB was registered with the SA Qualifications Authority, and was a non-profit organization headed by a 10-member council.

He said the PIRB has carried out a range of other activities, including facilitating apprenticeships for about 500 people and working on introducing plumbing as a school subject.

As for council authority, Smith said councils remained free to oversee certification between plumbers and the local government for the work performed.

Both Smith and Snelling said they approached the other organization to discuss the matter, and both said the other organization declined to discuss it further with them or to provide each other with information to advance the matter.

As for CPD points, Smith said the general requirement was 50 hours of self-development in a year, and the webinars and other paid material complained about by the IPA constituted a very small portion of the other CPD work that could be done, with the most of the other CPD work can be done for free.

Snelling said many plumbers have learned their trade through years of experience.

Plumbers were often from poor communities and lacked high-speed Internet access and resources to pay for webinars and other materials prescribed for CPD points.

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