2022 has been a very productive year for the Institute of Plumbing South Africa (IOPSA).
As the official mouthpiece of the plumbing industry, IOPSA currently consists of more than 1 100 members. The association’s growing membership mainly comprises plumbing companies and the balance manufacturers and suppliers of plumbing materials and products. Combined, these companies employ between 15 000 and 20 000 people.
During 2022, IOPSA continued to work with government on various plumbing-related initiatives. “These engagements will ensure that the profession and the important role that is fulfilled by qualified plumbers are acknowledged and held in the highest regard by the public sector. In this way, government will help to protect our industry that plays such an important role in helping it to deliver safe and efficient water and sanitation services,” Sello Mokawane, Vice-President of IOPSA, says.
For example, IOPSA is helping the Department of Trade & Industry (dti) to develop the proposed Water & Sanitation Industrialisation Masterplan. IOPSA and the dti are also updating the National Building Regulations to include a focus on water. Moreover, the association is working with the Department of Employment & Labour on various consumer and installer safety initiatives. This is in addition to engaging with the Department of Water & Sanitation to introduce the Water Efficiency Labelling Standards (WELS) scheme in South Africa. Furthermore, IOPSA has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Department of Public Works & Infrastructure (DPWI) to assist them with professionalising their artisans and updating their plumbing material specifications. It is also advising nine local municipalities on an array of plumbing-related topics. Through its involvement in the Public Private Growth Initiative, IOPSA is providing technical support to many of the country’s struggling municipalities on matters relating to water and sanitation services.
Mokawane reports that these efforts are being complemented by the close ties that IOPSA continues to nurture with other relevant industry bodies to promote the role of the profession and the importance of qualified plumbers. During 2022, IOPSA continued to engage with the Water Institute of South Africa (WISA), Water Research Commission (WRC) and SA Water Chamber, high-level industry bodies that influence government water and sanitation policies. Moreover, it is collaborating with the Professional Roof Repair and Waterproofing Association (PRAWA) to develop roof repair and waterproofing training material geared specifically at plumbers. This will be complemented by training for plumbers in corrosion protection for pipes that IOPSA is developing while working with the Corrosion Institute of South Africa. Throughout this year, the association also engaged with
Construction Alliance South Africa on a host of building-related issues. This includes the impact of the “construction mafia” on the building industry and respective trades and potentially finding ways of protecting members from these syndicates.
Certainly, training remains an important focus for IOPSA, considering the dire shortage of qualified plumbers in the country to deliver quality plumbing services.
As such, 2022 has been an especially busy year in terms of plumbing training for the association following a period of hiatus during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
IOPSA’s work in terms of upskilling government workers remains a resounding success. This includes the upskilling of DPWI staff as part of IOPSA’s existing MoU with the department, as well as the instruction that the association is providing to about 60 Building Control Officers from various municipalities to empower them to fulfil their duties.
Nick Joubert, IOPSA’s National Training Manager, says, “We also trained about 600 individuals in the correct installation of geysers in 2022. Furthermore, just under 120 individuals out of a group of 182 completed fully funded plumbing apprenticeships. This provides an indication of the real value of our apprenticeship programme this year,” Joubert says.
There is also a very high demand for IOPSA’s Artisan Recognition of Prior Learning (ARPL) programme. More than 70 individuals are completing the programme and they will also receive training in the correct installation of solar-water heaters (SWH) and heat pumps as an extension of the qualification. The ARPL is also fully funded, with learners only having to pay for transport to the training centres.
IOPSA also trained just more than 100 sales staff of a leading plumbing merchant in 2022. This will enable these employees to correctly advise consumers and plumbers in the correct application of the company’s products. The training has been such a success that a further 150 staff members have been selected to also undergo training in 2023.
During 2022, more than 80 trainers and facilitators were trained by Joubert and his team as part of IOPSA’s train the trainer programme. Because these facilitators are also assessors, they are able to make an informed judgement as to whether their trainees have reached a level of competence.
Moreover, IOPSA represented members in four complaints against technical and vocational education and training (TVET) colleges and trade test centres in 2022. “While there are reputable public and private sector training providers that deliver a service of exceptional quality, there has been a notable increase in complaints regarding the quality of plumbing
training in 2022. We recently received two more grievances regarding plumbing training from our members which we are currently investigating. It may be a sign of the times and companies and learners will, therefore, have to remain vigilant,” he says.
To help uphold plumbing training standards, IOPSA inspects public and private TVET colleges regularly. In 2022, the association inspected 19 of these facilities throughout the country. Joubert and his team also advise these colleges on ways in which they are able to improve their services. This includes ways to keep pace with the latest developments in industry so that they always provide relevant training.
IOPSA’s Technical Division has been just as busy.
It participated in 15 South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) meetings in 2022. The association’s involvement in these discussions entailed providing expertise on technical matters in plumbing-related standards. Moreover, IOPSA is part of several SABS technical committees where it monitors and makes submissions to amend standards.
Notably, it is playing a very important role in helping to formulate strong standards for the growing “green plumbing” market.
“IOPSA is currently assessing SANS 10106: Domestic Storage Solar Water Heating Systems. This is in addition to proposing amendments to the current SANS 10400–XA Energy Usage in Buildings Regulations because it is not aligned with the mandatory SANS 10252-1. Meanwhile, we have also requested a full review of SANS: 1732:2019 which has a bearing on greywater reuse for domestic purposes. Considering the role that greywater can play in alleviating pressure on South Africa’s strained water resources, the standard needs to be significantly strengthened. Greywater use has become a major focus for qualified plumbers and a robust standard will, therefore, ensure that these installations are undertaken correctly so that they are safe to use and have the intended maximum impact,” Steve van Zyl, IOPSA’s National Technical Manager, says.
Furthermore, IOPSA participated in two field studies involving innovative non-sewer sanitation systems. These technologies are also set to become a significant focus for the association’s members moving forward. This is considering the urgent need to find feasible and quicker ways of solving the country’s dire sanitation crisis. Plumbing students were also invited to participate in the field studies to expose them to these exciting new plumbing opportunities.
Van Zyl and his team continue to respond to many requests from IOPSA members.
Acting on behalf of member companies, the association reported the sale of non-compliant refurbished geysers to the National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications (NRCS). The NRCS has since confiscated these hot water systems from the sellers in a major triumph in the fight against unscrupulous practices in the industry.
On the behest of members, tests were also undertaken on the lengths of temperature pressure-release pipes. The results were shared with IOPSA’s technical committee. In principle, it has been agreed that these findings will be shared with SABS or the relevant technical committee to consider so that they will possibly review and amend the standard.
Moreover, the technical committee has provided guidance and best practice feedback for working at heights when installing geysers.
In 2022, IOPSA also grew its presence in the Western, Southern and Eastern Cape.
During the year, National Operations Manager, Steve Brown, and his team completed just under 9 000 audits to confirm compliance in the industry. This was accompanied by training to ensure continual development and upskilling.
A total of 107 consumer complaints regarding member and non-member companies were addressed. “It is important to note that we investigate complaints that involve our members at no cost to the consumer. This is yet another incentive for consumers to use IOPSA members, over-and-above having accountability and recourse should they not be satisfied with the service that they have received from one of our members,” Brown says.
Notably, he and his team processed more than 800 applications for designations for the installation of heat pumps and SWHs, another significant growth area for qualified plumbers considering the dire state of energy supply in the country.
Mokawane congratulates the IOPSA team for another year of hard work and effort. “While we do expect a tough 2023, there are still many opportunities for our industry to grow and develop moving forward. With the national electricity grid under significant strain, demand for SWHs and heat pumps will remain high. Meanwhile, the water and sanitation challenges that we face will continue to drive the uptake of greywater systems and other innovations, such as non-sewer systems. It is also our role to make sure that our members are well positioned to take the opportunity,” Mokawane concludes.