There was a time when the plumbing and heating industry was more straightforward. Not easier, but certainly less complicated. "Plumbers took in sanitary systems, heating systems, hot water and anything that managed the flow of water around a building including lead flashing, gullies and so on.All of these were in the plumbing qualification and indeed they still are. However over the last thirty years, with the advent of new technologies, a change to government policy on learning and new legislation there has been fragmentation in the industry. Now we see a very significant number of tradespeople who are not plumbers - and are often significantly less qualified calling themselves plumbers by default. Often they will start out as niche specialists within the broader plumbing industry but then progress into more mainstream plumbing works but, crucially, without the knowledge and experience they need.
The result is that there is some poor work being done out there, and a lack of knowledge is potentially putting consumers in danger.Unfortunately for many tradesmen and women, their general knowledge of plumbing systems is simply not good enough.
They use their specialist training to legitimise their claims to be "˜a plumber but underneath the thin veneer of specialist knowledge, they simply do not have the broad understanding required. Their willingness to call themselves plumbers undermines the whole industry. Its time for some back to basics. No-one should be ashamed to simply say, "I am a plumber. Equally, no-one should be allowed to say "˜I am a plumber unless they deserve to. A plumber is not just someone with a van, a wrench and some overalls.
The level 3 plumbing qualification is a far more detailed, more complex qualification than the equivalent for a gas engineer. (The fact that some people choose to call themselves a qualified plumber simply when they have completed their level 2 or 3 gas qualification is fundamentally wrong.)Poorly fitted sanitary pipework can be an even greater risk to human health and safety than an incorrectly fitted boiler. The installation of gas systems is tightly regulated and policed and rightly so but around the world about two million people, mostly children, die every year due to diarrhoeal diseases. Poor sanitation services are a major factor in this figure. It is not just developing countries that suffer from the consequences of poor sanitation.
You may remember the recent incident where Foot and Mouth Disease was caused by faulty plumbing drainage installation in a Pirbright, UK laboratory; this cost an estimated £100 million. Provision of sanitary systems should be the cornerstone of the plumbing and heating industry and not just dismissed as the dirty end of the job.
To be a plumber is a privilege after years of hard work; you should have the full plumbing qualification and several years good quality experience, not just a qualification that examines a particular industry niche with little or no experience required. If you cant grapple with the fundamentals, how can you deal with further complexities? Installations do not happen in isolation and all pipework is not the same although try telling that to a Level 2 gas engineer who thinks he can branch out into kitchen or bathroom fitting. Every fragmentation in the industry risks compromising standards.
Of course, some plumbers will choose to work in a particular niche, which is fine but what they must do is arrive at that niche via the basic plumbing education, not by bypassing it. We must not tolerate less qualified individuals calling themselves plumbers. We must reclaim the word for the qualified, skilled craftsmen who are real plumbers.