Kevin Wellman, Chief Executive of the Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering (CIPHE), outlines some of the key issues facing the plumbing and heating industry.
The CIPHE has created a manifesto (www.ciphe.org.uk/manifesto) in a bid to clarify the wide range of issues facing the industry, and the solutions to public policy that it can provide.
As the professional body for the plumbing and heating industry, the CIPHE is uniquely positioned to provide a voice for the sector, while simultaneously continuing to safeguard the public. The range of challenges that we face necessitates a united front, with everyone pulling together to secure the future of our industry.
The Institute’s new manifesto is an attempt to codify a response, and is an evolving document that will be amended as and when new challenges are presented. It is important that alongside highlighting the main issues, we also present solutions, and this is a theme throughout the manifesto.
What are the key issues?
One of the primary purposes of the CIPHE is to ensure public safety. This covers a number of different areas, from combatting the concerning prevalence of Legionnaires’ disease through to raising awareness surrounding scalding. A massive element of this is to campaign along the ‘prevention is better than cure’ argument, highlighting the health and financial costs associated with poorly installed appliances.
Another topic that will continue to dominate the news agenda is the environment, an issue with which the plumbing and heating industry is intrinsically linked. The future of heat and water shortages are critical challenges that require immediate action, and our industry has a responsibility to use its expertise to contribute towards a better future.
Addressing the skills gap is something the CIPHE has been vocal about over the past 12 months, and must continue to do so to prevent it from worsening. A fit-for-purpose education system must be developed to enable the plumbing and heating sector to tackle its major challenges. Everything from funding, to apprenticeships, to experienced worker recognition, must be considered as part of the solution that will equip our current and future workforce with the necessary skills to move the industry into the future.
Finally, issues surrounding regulations and licensing form a significant part of the Institute’s focus. The UK plumbing and heating industry remains largely unregulated, which means anyone can give themselves the title of ‘plumber’, regardless of qualifications, knowledge, and competence. When you consider that £1.6 billion was paid out by insurers during the last 12 months for ‘escape of water’ claims, the scale of the issue becomes clear.
What are the solutions?
The manifesto offers a number of proposed solutions for each problem, many of which require action from the government and other authoritative bodies.
It is crucial that the engineering sector has a voice in discussions at the highest level, to ensure that appropriate advice is provided to those tasked with making major decisions.
On a more day-to-day level, plumbing and heating engineers can play a massive role in the future of our industry, and indeed wider society as a whole. Public health incidents, such as scalding, are often easily avoidable with proper knowledge and training, which is what makes the continuing increased incidence all the more devastating.
By engaging in CPD and taking a proactive approach to training, engineers can contribute to a safer and better industry. Raising standards and helping to integrate those seeking to enter the industry, namely through apprenticeships, is something that all plumbing and heating engineers should work towards.
If you want to assist the CIPHE in promoting the professional values of the plumbing and heating industry, and improving the safety, health, and welfare of the public, then add your weight to its increasing membership by joining now.
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