Emergency plumbing work in remote Aboriginal communities

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Recent amendments to the Plumbers Licensing and Plumbing Standards Regulations 2000 (the Plumbing Regulations) will help to improve health and living conditions in Western Australia’s remote Aboriginal communities.

The changes, which came into effect on 14 December 2016, allow suitably qualified environmental health workers, based in or close to communities where ready access to a licensed plumber is not available, to undertake a limited range of simple plumbing repairs.

The repairs are designed to keep clean drinking water flowing and prevent unsanitary conditions from arising or getting worse until a licensed plumber can get there.

The Building Commission has worked with stakeholders including the Master Plumbers and Gasfitters Association and State Government agencies such as the Department of Health, the Department of Housing and the Regional Services Reform Unit to develop the new scheme.

Record of emergency plumbing work in remote Aboriginal communities

The Plumbers Licensing Board has a developed a template for service providers

Click here to download the document

Information on the consultation process and scheme
Emergency plumbing work – List of eligible remote Aboriginal communities PDF 134KB
Consultation paper – Basic plumbing repairs in remote aboriginal communities PDF 753KB
Decision paper – Basic emergency plumbing repairs in remote aboriginal communities PDF 838KB

Frequently asked questions

What work is permitted under the scheme?

The range of ‘permitted work’ is listed in the Plumbing Regulations and covers repairs such as: unblocking toilets, showers, waste pipes and drains by the use of flexible hand rods, plungers or hand-held water hoses; capping a burst water main or a section of damaged waste pipe or sanitary drain where there is a risk to health or safety or a risk of significant water wastage; replacing leaking tap washers, spindles, handles and shower roses; and replacing P-traps and S-traps in wastepipes under sinks, basins or troughs where access to the P-trap or S-trap is easy.

Which remote communities are eligible under the scheme?

The list of eligible remote Aboriginal communities is comprised of the 274 communities across WA determined to be a ‘remote or very remote Aboriginal community’ by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs.

What qualifications are required to carry out the work?

To carry out work under the scheme, the environmental health worker must hold either a Certificate II in Indigenous Environmental Health (with the corresponding plumbing units of competency), or a Certificate II in Population Health (with the corresponding plumbing units of competency. The environmental health worker must also be employed or engaged by a service provider that has a contract with the Department of Health to provide environmental health services to remote Aboriginal communities.

Will service providers have any obligations under the scheme?

Yes. Service providers will be required to keep a record of all work carried out under the scheme and make the record available for inspection by a plumbing compliance officer, or by a licensed plumbing contractor who reasonably requires a copy of the record to carry out other plumbing work in the remote community. The Plumbers Licensing Board has developed a template form for service providers to use. A copy of the form is available to download.

Service providers will also be required to ensure that, before carrying out any work under the scheme, their environmental health workers are appropriately trained and equipped to carry out the work safely and competently. They must also ensure that their environmental health workers only carry out the work in emergency situations where a licensed plumber cannot get to the remote community soon enough.

What does the new scheme mean for licensed plumbers?

As the purpose of the new scheme is to enable simple plumbing emergencies to be attended to in circumstances where a licensed plumber cannot get to the community soon enough, it should have no adverse impact on licensed plumbers.

Service providers are still required to engage a licensed plumber for all plumbing work not covered under the scheme.

How will compliance with the scheme be monitored?

The deployment of a new plumbing inspector from the Plumbers Licensing Board in Broome will assist with ensuring compliance with the new scheme and in providing information and guidance on its operation. The new inspector will also undertake compliance and enforcement activities in relation to plumbing work carried out more broadly in the Kimberley and Pilbara.

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