11 March 2021
We are a small plumbing business based in Johannesburg.
I began my career in 1995 and qualified a few years later. Over the past 26 years, I have owned and managed small, medium and large plumbing operations in the maintenance as well as the construction space. The reason I tell you this, is to highlight the fact that I have been in the industry for many years. I am not new to the trade. I have remained in the plumbing field simply because I am passionate about my craft and take what we do as plumbers very seriously. I am proud to be a plumber and I believe that this undoubtedly comes through in the service and expertise that I offer to my clients.
Over the years, I have seen a lot of change in the industry, some good and some bad. I have witnessed the Technikons fall away and essentially the plumbing apprentice system crumble. A system that worked so well for so many years was scrapped and replaced with confusion and frustration.
What I have witnessed first-hand is the incredible impact the PIRB and IOPSA has had on our industry. Like any businesses, IOPSA and the PIRB are not perfect, and yes, improvements can be made, but Rome was not built in a day. Despite their faults, they never stop trying to improve and do things better.
Like any business that causes disruption to the market, there will be people who accept the change and those who don’t. This is a totally normal occurrence. One cannot make everyone happy. The PIRB and IOPSA are not here to make people happy, they exist solely to improve our industry, of which they are doing a sterling job.
Jointly, they have had a huge positive impact on plumbing businesses in that take what they do seriously. The PIRB certificate of Compliance (CoC) is piece of paper that is worth gold. The amount of training that takes place annually because of PIRB and IOPSA is staggering. This translates into more skilled people, which then uplifts the trade. It’s no secret that our country is in desperate need of skilled trades people.
I have had about six or seven requests in the last year alone, from ‘plumbers’ asking me to sign off their work and issue CoCs in my name. This is because they have not taken the time nor put in the effort to keep upskilling themselves and learn more. I won’t sign off other people’s work! Recently I had a large plumbing company approach me to issue a CoC for their installation, as they could not issue a CoC. Why is this? Because they do not have one qualified plumber in their employ. Is that not scary? This means that every contract they undertake is being carried out by unqualified personnel. Will it take one small accident resulting in injury or death for them to realise the danger of having unqualified personnel carrying out installations.
For the first time in a long time, I have seen an uptake of young men and women wanting to get involved in the plumbing trade. I believe this is due to the positive impact the PIRB and IOPSA is having on our industry.
Like any business, the PIRB and IOPSA have overheads, which are required for them to operate and provide the service that they do to hundreds of plumbing businesses across the country. I firmly believe that the argument over the cost of the CoC or the training etc. being expensive is not valid, and the reason that it is not valid is because these costs are carried by our clients. The client is the one on the winning end as he/she is getting the work done by a qualified plumber who has a legal and moral obligation to install and execute his work in a safe and responsible manner.
Aside from the aforementioned, the audit process instituted by The PIRB and IOPSA is absolutely brilliant.
We have been audited on two occasions, and on both occasions, mistakes were picked up by the auditor which we had not noticed. It’s like trying to proofread a book you have written. You will not see your mistakes. The audit experience was a great learning experience for my technicians and myself. I can assure you, that the mistakes we made on those installations will never happen again. It is such a powerful way of learning.
Regarding the proposal that the services undertaken by the PIRB and IOPSA should be given to the municipalities is laughable at best. Sorry to be so blunt, but this is not the time or place to be politically correct. The municipalities cannot even cope with what they are currently mandated to do. I don’t think I need to continue on this matter. There is enough evidence on any news channel in South Africa to back up what I’m saying.
In conclusion, I ask that before steps are taken to remove or shut down the PIRB and or IOPSA, in-depth consultation is conducted by all affected parties, including the hundreds of plumbing business owners like myself who see the value in the tireless and mostly thankless work undertaken by the PIRB and IOPSA.
I urge you to please give careful consideration to the above.
To respond to the letter please click here
(Please mark clearly if you wish to remain anonymous – otherwise Plumbing Africa will use the name you sign with)