Richard Soper says that continuing professional development can play a vital role raising standards across the sector.

The steps we need to take to stamp out unqualified individuals, and to stop them from damaging lives through poor workmanship, are to first raise awareness of good installation among consumers, encourage planned maintenance of plumbing and heating systems, and keep our qualified installers at the top of their profession through continuing professional development (CPD).

These objectives can only be met if everyone unites, including manufacturers, trade and consumer bodies, and skilled plumbers and heating engineers.

Campaign trail

Consumer campaigns in the plumbing and heating industry have helped to raise awareness of the issues caused by not employing reputable tradespeople, or by neglecting appliances altogether. Gas Safety Week, for instance, has grown from strength to strength since its launch in 2011. As a result, many more people are now aware of the need to ask for proof that an engineer is Gas Safe-registered, and to always have an annual boiler service.

The same can’t be said for water safety here in the UK, which, unlike gas, can be overlooked by homeowners who do not realise what the dangers are of not properly managing water temperatures and bacteria. This is an area the CIPHE is keen to raise awareness of among members, who can then advise their customers about this.

We are all aware that once plumbing and heating devices have been fitted, maintenance is often forgotten about or ignored by consumers, who are then made vulnerable when a system failure does occur. Leading manufacturers in the plumbing and heating industry are helping by putting robust guarantees in-place, which require regular servicing in order to keep a product in-warranty. This is an incentive for homeowners to keep their heating and hot water systems in good working order, and offers peace of mind too, but what else can be done?

The CIPHE is taking action to help put maintenance at the forefront of the discussion between professionals and homeowners.

Consumer in mind

Currently in development, the ‘Consumer Compliance Health Check’ will offer a comprehensive CIPHE-approved guide and maintenance checklist, which will cover all aspects of home plumbing and heating; from water safety, heating, controls, hot and cold water services, to above and below ground drainage, plus renewables. Through this, the CIPHE hopes to offer its members a practical aid that can be used to show consumers how they can keep their whole home working safely, efficiently, and more sustainably, with the help of their professional plumbing and heating engineer.

Professional development

Among all of the different ways there are to protect public welfare, keeping your own skills updated through CPD is one of the most worthwhile.

CPD is a win-win for everyone – from the manufacturers and distributors who sell the product and rely on good installers to be able to fit them properly, to the installer who wants to reduce the likelihood of things going wrong and maintain a good reputation.

There are many ways of getting to grips with product information and new legislation, or to refresh your technical skills – be it online, at a face-to-face course, or using printed literature.

The CIPHE is proud to offer many different CPD options, and works closely with its industrial associates to offer the best training and development opportunities. For instance, many of you have already taken advantage of the Institute’s SmartTalk and TechTalk YouTube videos.

No matter where you are in your career, newly qualified or near retirement, you can make a difference. I urge everyone in the industry to be proud to be a professional and unite together to support public welfare.

Richard Soper is Director of Development at the CIPHE.