Plumbing review

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Plumber

Background

On 19 June 2013, the Hon Michael Mischin MLC, Minister for Commerce, announced an independent review of Western Australia’s plumbing regulation, to be conducted by ACIL Allen Consulting (ACIL Allen).

In undertaking the review, ACIL Allen released a discussion paper and held public consultation sessions and one-on-one meetings with stakeholders throughout July 2013.

ACIL Allen presented its final report, the ‘Review of Plumbing Regulations in WA’ to the Minister for Commerce on 8 November 2013. After further consultation with key plumbing industry stakeholders, the report was made publicly available on 13 February 2014.

The review examined the effectiveness of the current plumbing laws and made a number of recommendations for change aimed at putting in place a more modern and flexible regulatory framework for plumbing work and plumbing standards in Western Australia.

Latest developments

Emergency plumbing work in remote Aboriginal communities

In February 2015, the Building Commission published a consultation paper titled, ‘Basic plumbing repairs in remote Aboriginal communities’. Some 26 submissions were received in response. The paper and responses are available under the 'Archive tab' on this webpage.

After evaluating the feedback received, in August 2016, the Building Commission published a Decision paper setting out the detail of the new scheme.

On 14 December 2016, the Plumbers Licensing and Plumbing Standards Regulations 2000 were amended to give effect to the new arrangements.

Decision paper: Basic emergency plumbing work in remote Aboriginal communities.

Installation of temperature control devices when replacing solar water heaters

All new (that is, first time) solar water heater installations are required to be temperature controlled to the outlets of sanitary plumbing fixtures used primarily for personal hygiene, in accordance with the Plumbing Code of Australia and AS/ NZS 3500.4:2015, clause 1.9.2.

Changes due to come into effect in Western Australia on 14 December 2016 will extend this requirement to also cover replacements of solar water heaters. From that date, plumbers who replace an existing solar water heater with another solar water heater must ensure that the replacement heater is temperature controlled. As with new installations, this must be carried out in accordance with AS/ NZS 3500.4:2015, clause 1.9.2 (Sanitary fixtures delivery temperature) and clause 1.9.3 (Solutions for control of delivery temperature).

The requirement for replacement solar water heaters to be temperature controlled is being made through regulation 49 (Modifications to Plumbing Code) of the Plumbers Licensing and Plumbing Standards Regulations 2000. This change will bring Western Australia in line with other states in Australia.

A technical note is being prepared by the Plumbers Licensing Board and will shortly be distributed to licensed plumbers.

Update to Regulation 53 (Liquid waste from airconditioners) of the Plumbers Licensing and Plumbing Standards Regulations 2000

Regulation 53 is being amended to remove the reference to the 2003 edition of Australian Standard AS/NZS 3500.2 (Sanitary plumbing and drainage) and replace it with a reference to the current edition of that Australian Standard. This amendment will take effect from 14 December 2016. From that date, drainage plumbing work that involves or would result in the discharge of airconditioning waste into the sewer must comply with the requirements of clause 13.20 of AS/NZS 3500.2:2015.

Reporting requirements and electronic lodgement of plumbing notices 

The Building Commission is currently exploring options to reduce the administrative burden associated with reporting plumbing work in Western Australia. This includes looking at whether multi-entry certificates should continue to be submitted, and whether the process for submitting and retrieving drainage plumbing diagrams (also known as flimsies or as constructed diagrams) can be simplified. As part of this, the Building Commission will be developing a new electronic system to enable the online lodgement of plumbing notices, certificates of compliance and as-constructed diagrams. 

The Building Commission became responsible for the management of drainage plumbing diagrams on 1 July 2016. Further information is available at the Drainage plumbing diagram webpage

In early 2016, the Building Commission conducted a survey of licensed plumbers to determine their readiness to submit plumbing notices online and to help ascertain the benefits in transferring the management of as constructed diagrams to the Plumbers Licensing Board. These survey results are now available in the April edition of the Plumbers News e-newsletter.

At the same time, the Building Commission also published a policy paper seeking feedback on the future use of multi-entry certificates. Submissions to this policy paper are available in the ‘Archives’ tab.

The survey results and responses to the policy paper will assist in decision-making around these issues. 

Plumbers Licensing Board disciplinary powers

Amendments to the Plumbers Licensing and Plumbing Standards Regulations 2000 (the Plumbing Regulations) effective from 30 April 2016 brought in a number of changes to the compliance and disciplinary arrangements for licensed plumbers and permit holders. As a result of those changes, the Plumbers Licensing Board (PLB) now has broader powers when dealing with disciplinary complaints against licensed plumbers and permit holders. In addition, plumbing compliance officers are now able to issue infringement notices in a broader range of cases. The amount of the infringement notice penalty (known as the ‘modified penalty’) has also increased in cases where notices of intention and certificates of compliance have not been submitted within the prescribed timeframes. Further detail about these changes can be found under the Enquiries/FAQs tab on this page.

Plumbers licensing renewals process

A number of changes to the renewal process for plumbing licences and permits also took effect on 30 April 2016. As part of the changes, the Plumbers Licensing Board now has the power to assess whether a person applying to renew their licence or permit continues to satisfy the ‘fit and proper person’ test. Further information about the new processes is available on the licence renewal webpage.

Adoption of the Plumbing Code of Australia

On 1 May 2015, the Plumbers Licensing and Plumbing Standards Regulations 2000 (the ‘Plumbing Regulations’) were amended to l call up the Plumbing Code of Australia (the PCA) as the primary technical reference for water supply plumbing, sanitary plumbing and drainage plumbing in Western Australia. 
Compliance with the PCA is achieved by satisfying the Performance Requirements listed in the PCA. This can be demonstrated by:

  • complying with the ‘Deemed-to-Satisfy’ provisions; or
  • formulating an Alternative Solution which complies with the Performance Requirements or is shown to be at least equivalent to the ‘Deemed-to-Satisfy’ provisions; or
  • a combination of the above.

The ‘Deemed-to-Satisfy’ provisions are based on the relevant Australian Standards, in particular AS/NZS 3500: Plumbing and Drainage (AS3500), and are the simplest way to comply with the Performance Requirements of the PCA. Accordingly, the adoption of the PCA is not expected to have an impact on the majority of plumbers. 

Alternative Solutions

For licensed plumbing contractors who wish to include an alternative solution as part of a plumbing installation there are a number of additional requirements to be met. These include lodging a ‘Notice of Intention to Install an Alternative Solution’ at least five business days prior to commencing work. This notice must include:

  1. Copies of the evidence, information or advice the licensed plumbing contractor has relied upon in satisfying themselves that the alternative solution meets the Performance Requirements of the PCA.
  2. A statement that the property owner or occupier has been informed of the proposed inclusion of an Alternative Solution.
  3. Payment of the notification fee of $777.60, plus any additional amount relating to new installation fees (also referred to as ‘fixture fees’).

Further Information

To find out more about these matters, please visit the Enquiries/FAQ tab on this page or go to the Plumbing Code of Australia page on this website. 

Enquiries/FAQs

Plumbing review background

  1. Why are the plumbing laws being reformed?

In June 2013, the Government announced that a fundamental review of Western Australia’s plumbing regulation would be undertaken. The review was carried out by an independent firm of consultants – ACIL Allen Consulting (ACIL Allen).

ACIL Allen’s final report was released by the Government in early 2014. The report made a number of recommendations about how the plumbing laws could be streamlined, modernised and improved.

The Government has noted the recommendations in the ACIL Allen report and is committed to reforming the way plumbing is regulated in WA to make it more efficient and contemporary.

  1. What were the main recommendations of the ACIL Allen report?

The ACIL Allen report contained a total of 51 recommendations broadly aimed at making the laws more modern and more responsive to the changing needs of the plumbing industry. The key areas identified for reform were:

  • Adopting the Plumbing Code of Australia as the compliance standard for plumbing and drainage work in Western Australia.
  • Making the plumbers’ licensing regime more flexible so as to better address things such as conditional licences, overseas-trained migrant plumbers, and the carrying out of urgent plumbing work in remote communities.
  • Ensuring that the model and method used for administering the plumbers licensing system is efficient and appropriate.
  • Revising the way the technical regulator is structured and funded.
  • Amending the definition of “plumbing work” to be more flexible and better able to meet the changing needs of the plumbing industry and the community.
  1. When will the reforms be implemented?

A phased implementation will be undertaken, with the first of the reforms having commenced on 1 January 2015.

  1. Why are the reforms being implemented in phases?

Before a government department can introduce any new laws it must first carry out an assessment of the impact of the proposals.  This assessment must show how the benefits to the community of the proposal will exceed its costs.  The department must also make the proposals available for public and industry comment and take into consideration any comments it receives before the proposals can be introduced.

Many of the reforms arising from ACIL Allen’s review fall into that category and therefore require careful consideration to ensure that the proposals are worthwhile. As this will involve extensive analysis and consultation with industry and the community, this will take some time to complete.

Other reforms resulting from the ACIL Allen review are more straightforward and can be implemented much more quickly.

In view of those different timeframes and processes, it has been decided to implement the reforms in two phases.

The first phase was undertaken in the first half of 2015 and included the following:

  • Introduction of a ‘provisional plumber’s licence’ for overseas-trained plumbers. This enables experienced migrant plumbers to receive ‘on-the-job gap training’ while finalising their training in Western Australia. The gap training must be done under the supervision of a licensed plumbing contractor or a licensed  contractor.
  • Reinstatement of the ability for licensed electricians and licensed gasfitters to make first-time applications for a ‘restricted plumbing permit’ so they can carry out water supply plumbing work associated with ‘like-for-like’ hot water unit changeovers.
  • Introduction of standardised training pathways for obtaining a full tradesperson’s license or a full plumbing contractor’s licence to bring them up to date and make them easier to understand.
  • Adoption of the Plumbing Code of Australia as the compliance standard for water supply plumbing, sanitary plumbing and drainage plumbing in Western Australia.

The second phase of reforms came into effect on 30 April 2016 and included:

  • Amendments to the disciplinary processes for licensed plumbers and permit holders. As part of these changes, the Plumbers Licensing Board now has the power to hear and determine certain types of disciplinary matters in-house without having to refer them to the State Administrative Tribunal. The list of disciplinary matters has also been extended. (For further information see Question 23 below).
  • Changes to the infringement notice scheme for offences against the Plumbing Regulations (see Question 23 below).
  • Amendments to the renewal process for plumbing licences and permits (see Question 24 below).

The final phase of the reforms will commence with the release of a Consultation Regulatory Impact Statement (CRIS) in mid-2016. This CRIS will cover each of the last remaining recommendations from the ACIL Allen review, including the future structure of the technical regulator and future funding arrangements for the regulation of plumbing in Western Australia.

Provisional plumber's licence

  1. What will I need to do to qualify for a ‘provisional tradesperson’s licence’?

Applicants for a provisional tradesperson’s licence will need to satisfy the Plumbers Licensing Board that he or she:

  • is a ‘fit and proper person’ to hold a provisional tradesperson’s licence; and
  • has obtained an Offshore Technical Skills Record (OTSR) that assesses his or her skills and competency in plumbing against the relevant Australian qualifications or units of competency (currently a Certificate III in Plumbing).

To obtain an OTSR, plumbers trained overseas are required to complete a competency assessment to demonstrate their competency in a number of skill areas taken from the Certificate III in Plumbing. The OTSR lists the holder’s technical skills as demonstrated in the competency assessment. Importantly, it also identifies any skills gaps that must be addressed through further training.

Once in Australia, the overseas trained plumber must complete what is referred to as “migrant gap training”. This training ensures that the person gains the specific Australian knowledge requirements for the plumbing trade. In addition, any skills gaps identified in the OTSR must also be covered in the migrant gap training course.

  1. What if I am an overseas person with only drainage experience?

A provisional licence for drainage plumbers has also been introduced. Applicants for a provisional licence (drainage plumbing) must satisfy the Plumbers Licensing Board that he or she is:

  • a ‘fit and proper person’ to hold a provisional licence (drainage plumbing); and
  • has obtained an Offshore Technical Skills Record (OTSR) that assesses his or her skills and competency in drainage plumbing against the relevant Australian qualifications or units of competency (in this instance the Certificate II in Drainage).

Once they have completed the required training, holders of a provisional licence (drainage plumbing) can apply for the tradesperson’s licence (drainage plumbing).

  1. How long is a provisional tradesperson’s licence valid for?

The provisional tradesperson’s licence is valid for one year only. Once the migrant gap training has been successfully completed, the holder of the provisional tradesperson’s licence may apply for a full tradesperson’s licence. Although the Plumbers Licensing Board has the discretion to renew a provisional licence for one further year, it will only do so if it is satisfied that there are exceptional reasons as to why the migrant gap training was not completed during the initial one-year term.

  1. What are the supervision requirements for holders of a provisional tradesperson’s licence?

Holders of a provisional tradesperson’s licence are only be permitted to carry out plumbing work under the supervision of —

  1. a licensed plumbing contractor; or
  2. the holder of —
    1. in any case, a tradesperson’s licence; or
    2. in the case of drainage plumbing work, a tradesperson’s licence (drainage plumbing), working under the general direction and control of a licensed plumbing contractor.

Restricted Plumbing Permit

  1. What are the criteria for obtaining a ‘restricted plumbing permit’?

Only licensed electricians and licensed gasfitters are eligible to apply for a restricted plumbing permit. Applicants for the permit will be required to satisfy the Plumbers Licensing Board that he or she is a ‘fit and proper person’ to hold a restricted plumbing permit and has successfully completed training as approved by the Plumbers Licensing Board.

The restricted plumbing permit will allow the holder to remove, remove and reinstall, or replace a water heater on a strictly like-for-like basis, provided that the following circumstances apply:

  1. No change to the existing pipes is required;
  2. the existing pipes are in safe and proper working order;
  3. the temperature/pressure relief valve overflow pipe complies with the plumbing standards; and
  4. a flexible hose connection is not required or used.
  1. How long will a restricted plumbing permit be valid for?

A restricted plumbing permit will be valid for three years and will be renewable.

Western Australian Training pathways

  1. What are the training pathways for a full plumbing contractor’s licence?

Since 1 January 2015, the training requirements for applicants for a plumbing contractor’s licence are that the applicant must hold:

  • a statement of competency as a water supply plumber, sanitary plumber, or drainer; or
  • an equivalent Western Australian qualification as determined by the Plumbers Licensing Board.

Applicants will also need to satisfy the Plumbers Licensing Board that he or she is the holder of a tradesperson’s licence and is a fit and proper person to hold a plumbing contractor’s licence.

  1. What are the training pathways for a tradesperson’s licence?

There are two different pathways for fulfilling the training requirements for a tradesperson’s licence. The first applies to plumbers who have obtained their plumbing qualifications in Australia and the second applies to migrant plumbers. The details are as follows:

Pathway 1

The applicant must:

  • hold a Certificate III in Plumbing attained by fulfilling the obligations of an apprentice under a training contract; or
  • hold an equivalent Western Australian qualification as determined by the Plumbers Licensing Board.

Pathway 2

The applicant must:

  • hold, or have held within the previous 6 months, a provisional tradesperson’s licence and must also hold:
  •  a Certificate III in Plumbing (Migrant Gap Training); or
  • an equivalent Western Australian qualification as determined by the Plumbers Licensing Board.

Both pathways will also require the applicant to satisfy the Plumbers Licensing Board that he or she is a fit and proper person to hold a tradesperson’s licence.

  1. What are the training pathways for a tradesperson’s licence (drainage plumbing)?

Since 1 January 2015, there are two pathways for fulfilling the training requirements for a tradesperson’s licence (drainage plumbing). The first applies to drainage plumbers who have obtained their plumbing qualifications in Australia and the second applies to migrant drainage plumbers. The details are as follows:

Pathway 1

The applicant must:

  • hold a Certificate II in Drainage; or
  • an equivalent Western Australian qualification as determined by the Plumbers Licensing Board.

Pathway 2

The applicant must:

  • hold, or have held within the previous 6 months, a provisional tradesperson’s licence (drainage plumbing) and must also hold:
    • a statement of attainment of approved units of competency within the Certificate III in Plumbing (Migrant Gap Training); or
    • an equivalent Western Australian qualification as determined by the Plumbers Licensing Board.

Both pathways will also require the applicant to satisfy the Plumbers Licensing Board that he or she is a fit and proper person to hold a tradesperson’s licence.

  1. I am part way through my plumbing apprenticeship – what do the new training pathways mean for me?

The apprenticeship pathway to obtaining a tradesperson’s licence has not changed. This pathway is the completion of a Certificate III in Plumbing attained by fulfilling the obligations of an apprentice under a training contract.

Anyone currently completing an apprenticeship should continue to do so prior to applying for a tradesperson’s licence.

Plumbing Code of Australia

  1. What is the Plumbing Code of Australia?

The Plumbing Code of Australia forms part of the National Construction Code (NCC). The NCC was developed following an agreement by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) to implement a single national code to cover on-site building, plumbing, telecommunications and electrical work.

So far, the NCC comprises three volumes. Volumes 1 and 2 jointly form the Building Code of Australia. Volume 3 is the Plumbing Code of Australia – or ‘PCA’ for short.

The PCA sets out the technical rules for how plumbing work must be performed. These technical rules are largely based on the relevant Australian Standards. Accordingly, the technical rules in the PCA are much the same as the technical standards in WA’s existing plumbing laws.

However, the PCA does introduce new concepts and terms that don’t currently exist in the WA legislation. For example, the PCA uses terms such as ‘Performance Requirements’, ‘Deemed-to-Satisfy’ and ‘Performance Solutions’. These are discussed in detail in Questions 17 to 21 below.

  1. How and when will the Plumbing Code of Australia be implemented in Western Australia?

The Plumbing Code of Australia (PCA) was adopted as the primary technical standards reference for plumbing work on 1 May 2015.

However, because the scope of work covered by the PCA is broader than that covered in WA’s existing plumbing legislation, only those parts of the PCA that deal with “plumbing work” as it is currently defined in section 59I of the Plumbing Act (i.e. water supply plumbing, sanitary plumbing and drainage plumbing) will be adopted initially.

This means that only the following parts of the PCA currently apply in Western Australia:
Section A – General Provisions
Part B1 – Cold Water Services
Part B2 – Heated Water Services (other than Part B2.6)
Parts B3 and B4 (to the extent that the requirements relate to water supply plumbing) 
Part C1 – Sanitary Plumbing Systems
Part C2 – Sanitary Drainage Systems
Section G – Materials and Products Certification and Authorisation

Adoption of the remaining parts of the PCA will be considered during the regulatory impact assessment process discussed in Question 4 above. A decision on this is not expected to be reached before the end of 2016.

  1. The PCA uses the term ‘Performance Requirements’.  What are they?

The Performance Requirements are the technical standards that must be met in order to comply with the PCA.

To meet the Performance Requirements, plumbing work must comply:

  1. with the ‘Deemed-to-Satisfy’ provisions of the PCA (this is essentially the status quo); or
  2. with a ‘Performance Solution’ that has been assessed as meeting the Performance Requirements or is at least equivalent to the ‘Deemed-to-Satisfy’ provisions of the PCA; or
  3. with a combination of (a) and (b).
     
  4. What is meant by ‘Deemed-to-Satisfy?

In general, compliance with the ‘Deemed-to-Satisfy’ provisions of the PCA means compliance with the relevant Australian Standards. This is very similar to the arrangements that are already in place under WA’s plumbing laws.

Consequently, carrying out plumbing work in compliance with the ‘Deemed-to-Satisfy’ provisions of the PCA is not expected to result in much practical change for the majority of plumbers in WA.

  1. What is a ‘Performance Solution’ under the PCA?

A ‘Performance Solution’ is one that departs in some way from the relevant Australian Standard but which has been verified by a suitably qualified expert as still meeting the Performance Requirements set out in the PCA. Further information on assessing a ‘Performance Solution’ is contained in Question 21 below.

  1. Will licensed plumbers be able to install ‘Performance Solutions’ once the PCA is in place in Western Australia?

Yes. Since 1 May 2015, licensed plumbers can choose to incorporate ‘Performance Solutions’ when carrying out water supply plumbing, sanitary plumbing and drainage plumbing, provided that the ‘Performance Solution’ complies with the Performance Requirements of the PCA.

  1. Who carries out assessments of ‘Performance Solutions’?

Assessments of ‘Performance Solutions’ must be carried out in accordance with the Assessment Methods set out in the PCA and must be done by a professional engineer or a competent person with qualifications and experience in the area of plumbing or drainage to which the ‘Performance Solution’ relates.

The Building Commission has published a detailed guidance note about developing Performance Solutions. This is available on the Building Commission website

  1. Have there been any changes to the ‘Notice of Intention’ process following the adoption of the PCA in Western Australia?

Yes. A different ‘Notice of Intention’ process now applies to plumbing and drainage installations that incorporate a ‘Performance Solution’. This is described below.

Notice of Intention

As part of the process of lodging a ‘Notice of Intention to Install a Performance Solution’, the licensed plumbing contractor must submit documentation demonstrating that the ‘Performance Solution’ has been:

  • assessed in accordance with the assessment methods set out in the PCA; and
  • verified as meeting the Performance Requirements of the PCA.

The ‘Notice of Intention to Install a Performance Solution’ must first be purchased from the Building Commission and must be lodged at least five business days prior to commencing any work on the plumbing installation referred to in the Notice.

This notice must include:

  • Copies of the evidence, information or advice the licensed plumbing contractor has relied upon in satisfying themselves that the performance solution meets the Performance Requirements of the PCA.
  • A statement that the property owner or occupier has been informed of the proposed inclusion of a performance solution.
  • Payment of the notification fee of $777.60, plus any additional amount relating to new installation fees (also referred to as fixture fees).

Plumbers Licensing Board compliance disciplinary powers 

  1. What changes have been made to the disciplinary powers of the Plumbers Licensing Board?

TThe ACIL Allen final report included a number of recommendations to increase the powers of the Plumbers Licensing Board to take disciplinary action against licensed plumbers and permit holders. The necessary changes to the Plumbing Regulations have now been made and took effect on 30 April 2016. These changes::

  • enable the Plumbers Licensing Board to hear and determine certain minor disciplinary matters itself  rather than having to refer them to the State Administrative Tribunal;
  • give plumbing compliance officers from the Plumbers Licensing Board the power to issue an infringement notice in cases where unlicensed plumbing work has been carried out; 
  • increase the amount of the infringement notice penalty (known as the modified penalty) for failing to provide a notice of intention or compliance certificate within the prescribed time limits; and
  • extend the list of ‘Disciplinary Matters’ in Regulation 27 of the Plumbing Regulations to include, among other things, cases where the licensee or permit holder:
    • has been convicted of a serious offence; 
    • has engaged in conduct that is harsh, unconscionable, oppressive, misleading or deceptive in relation to the carrying out of plumbing work; or
    • has been negligent or incompetent in the carrying out of plumbing work.

Renewal of licences and permits

  1. What changes have been made to renewals process for plumbing licences and permits?

The main change is that the Plumbers Licensing Board now has the power to assess whether an applicant for a renewal continues to be a ‘fit and proper person’ to hold a plumbing licence or permit.

The Plumbers Licensing Board also now has the power to request further information from an applicant as part of the renewal process. 

These changes commenced with effect from 30 April 2016. Further information about the changes is availableon the National Police Certificate webpage.

 

Archive

As part of assessing and implementing the reforms recommended by ACIL Allen Consulting in its ‘Review of Plumbing Regulations in Western Australia’ the Building Commission will undertake further consultation as required. Closed discussion papers and responses are contained below.

Adopting the Plumbing Code of Australia: Administration of Alternative Solutions (published September 2014) 

Responses:

Basic Plumbing Repairs in Remote Aboriginal Communities (published February 2015) 

Responses:

Reducing the administrative burden on plumbers: multi-entry certificates’ policy paper 

Responses:

 

 

 

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