Water Regulation Advisory Scheme
‘WaterSafe installers can hand out a work-completed certificate. This gives their customer peace of mind because they have something that says it meets the water fittings regulations’
The safety of customers should be priority number one for installers. Fortunately, the vast majority of work they carry out is safe and effective, partly because the industry has been working for years to put rules and regulations in place, and encourage best practice.
One such organisation is the Water Regulations Advisory Scheme (WRAS), which has the primary objective of helping secure high-quality drinking water in premises. Julie Spinks is the managing director and it’s her job to help make this happen.
“As MD the buck stops with me,” she says. “I’ve been involved with WRAS for two years but I’ve spent most of my career in the water industry. At WRAS we cover a broad range of issues – raising awareness of the water regulations, running approval schemes and representing water companies – so there’s never a dull moment.”
One initiative Spinks is working closely with is WaterSafe, which was launched in October 2013. The online search facility aims to help customers find the nearest qualified plumbing and heating professionals in their area, while promoting water safety for homes and businesses.
WaterSafe was started by leading members of the industry, including WRAS, the Association of Plumbing and Heating Contractors, the Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering and a number of water companies. In order to be featured on the WaterSafe website, installers must be qualified and approved by one of the above industry bodies, ensuring that they provide excellent service.
“WaterSafe has been an interesting process,” says Spinks. “Water companies and trade associations haven’t traditionally worked together, but I’ve found that it’s worked really well because we share the same goals. The water companies play a big part; we did several focus groups and found that people would trust the scheme a lot more if they were involved, so it’s great to have them onboard.
“At WaterSafe we’ve been working on campaigns and research, and trying to get the word out there to both installers and the public,” she adds. “The research we carried out was really helpful. We spoke to 2,000 people; 23 per cent said they’d been a victim of a rogue plumber, and it cost on average £426 to fix. We want to make sure this doesn’t happen, and protect the public from unscrupulous and underqualified workers.”
So how can the average householder benefit? “WaterSafe is about giving consumers a better choice,” says Spinks. “It’s not like the Gas Safe Register, which is mandatory; our scheme is voluntary. We want to give people peace of mind.
“We’ve found many customers want a capable, qualified plumber but aren’t sure how to find one. They would ask their family or friends, who aren’t necessarily the experts; so that’s where WaterSafe comes in,” she adds.
“I’ve heard of incidents involving poor plumbing, like rainwater harvesting being put into drinking water or toilet cistern water coming out of the taps, which the person noticed because it was blue from their cleaning chemicals.
“For a consumer this is a health hazard, but it’s also a big inconvenience because more work needs to be done and it’s going to cost more money. When we speak to people they stress that qualifications are really important, but they don’t always check. We’re trying to change their habits so they can be sure the work being carried out is to a high standard.
“There’s also a complaints process,” Spinks points out. “If the customer isn’t happy with the work done they can contact WaterSafe, and someone will be sent to check it out. If it’s not up to scratch and doesn’t meet the requirements of the water fittings regulations, the plumber will be required to put it right, so it gives people a safety net.”
For installers to get behind a scheme there has to be an incentive, so what will encourage them to sign up? “WaterSafe is about standing out from the crowd,” says Spinks. “Installers have the skills so they should show them off, and use the branding to separate themselves from the rogues.”
Another big advantage for recognised plumbers is that they can carry out some work without the need to provide advanced notification to the water supplier. “For most types of plumbing work, plumbers have a legal duty to notify the water supplier before they start, and this can lead to delays of up to two weeks,” says Spinks.
“WaterSafe installers can also hand out a work-completed certificate,” she adds. “This gives their customer peace of mind because they have something in their hand that says the work carried out meets the water fittings regulations.
“As an industry we have a responsibility to make sure standards are high and public health is protected,“ Spinks concludes. “Plumbers make an important contribution to public health, and I hope the WaterSafe register will help to improve water safety for all our buildings.”
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