25 September 2020

Plumbing a safer, more sustainable Canberra

| Master Plumbers ACT
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Bushland with view of Black Mountain in background.

Master Plumbers ACT is urging candidates in the upcoming ACT election to consider plumbing-related impacts on sustainability and public safety. Photo: ACT Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate.

As we head into the 2020 election, Master Plumbers ACT is urging the ACT Government, opposition MLAs and other candidates to consider plumbing-related impacts on sustainability and public safety.

Master Plumbers ACT executive officer Leigh Watson said in the association’s revising of its vision in 2019, it identified both sustainability and public safety as key principles that should underpin all its work and outcomes.

“It is often not recognised what an important role the plumbing industry plays in both safety and sustainability, and there are several commitments and election calls on the table we would like to support and strengthen in this regard,” said Ms Watson.

“We will continue to provide our broad backing to make the ACT the nation’s climate action capital with a focus on water saving, energy efficiency and 100 per cent renewable energy.”

In particular, Master Plumbers ACT is recommending broadening the availability of rebates for installations to replace old, inefficient appliances with new energy-efficient appliances – currently only available when the work is undertaken by ActewAGL plumbers – to ensure an increased take-up of energy-efficient measures by the community.

While Master Plumbers ACT believes the ACT Government is already doing much work on energy saving, Ms Watson said the association believes water saving should also be a key focus as a critical sustainability issue.

“We would like to see a refocus on efforts to save water and bring back the water-saving initiatives that were rolled out during the last drought,” she said. “As well as reducing water use, the process of saving water also delivers energy-saving measures.

“We have developed a holistic water-saving program that includes rebates to householders for water audits and upgrades, plus a range of other initiatives.

“If implemented, the program would deliver a comprehensive universal water-saving program that would see the ACT become an exemplar jurisdiction of best-practice in water saving methods that utilise innovative and sensible plumbing solutions.

“We hope the ACT continues to maintain its focus on improving building quality as outlined in its building reforms review 2020, and also including its relation to safety. One of the inarguable negative impacts on both building quality and safety is the current practice of contract and payment processes for contractors, such as plumbers, undertaking work as ‘subbies’ for builders or developers. We believe that a breakdown resulting from current processes can have a direct impact on both safety and building quality.

“We support a commitment to implementing ‘reform 41’ to improve security of payments for subbies, to institute a more professional and fair way of paying plumbers and other contractors for major works, and to make sure they are paid what they are owed when payments are due.

“We are also in support of the call for upgrading of qualifications and/or accreditation for non-licensed trades, as per ‘reform 35’, with a focus on roofing. It is no coincidence the ACT Government has identified the issues of waterproofing and water ingress in multi-unit developments and single residential dwellings – due to design issues or poor product or workmanship – as an area of major concern.

“The importance of the quality of all roofing work has a direct impact on the integrity of the building overall, but especially on water ingress. We believe this licensing issue is of critical concern as it has a direct impact on both initial construction and any follow up repair or maintenance with a reduced outcome in building quality through poor waterproofing work. And it’s a fair bet this also has a direct impact on worker safety.

“To ensure our workers on construction sites get home safety to their families, we believe more ACT Government WorkSafe inspectors on the ground for residential and commercial construction would go a long way to ensuring safety for plumbers and other construction workers.

“As many small businesses struggle during COVID-19, we would like to see grants provided for small and medium construction businesses to purchase relevant safety equipment – not just for COVIDsafe implementation, but WH&S [work health and safety] in general.”

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