Today at Access Training we are celebrating World Plumbing Day not only across our plumbing courses, but also what it means to become a plumber and the importance it has.

In the UK it's quite easy to take for granted the benefit of having safe drinking water and functioning sanitation systems. However many countries do not have this luxury, and following the aftermath of the 2010 Haiti earthquake and 2011 Japan tsunami (which happened 2 years ago today) it has become clear just how far the advancement in plumbing has come over the years and the devastation it can cause when it is taken away.

World Plumbing Day is an event initiated by the World Plumbing Council to be held on March 11th every year, celebrating the role plumbing plays in the health and safety of modern society. According to research, preventable diseases related to water and sanitation claim about 3.1 million lives a year, most of them children under the age of 5. Of these, around 1.6 million die of diseases associated with a lack of safe drinking water and adequate sanitation.

By training to become a plumber, you are not only giving yourself a job and skill for life. You are providing a service which mankind has depended on for centuries and is constantly improving not just to make our lives better, but to also improve humanity's impact on the environment. Though its often underappreciated by the general public, plumbers play a huge role in keeping people safe and healthy every day.

There may only be one World Plumbing Day a year, but that doesn't mean we should only appreciate plumbers once a year.

For more information on Access Training's range of plumbing courses, contact us at 0800 345 7492

TrustMark, the government-endorsed quality mark for tradesmen, have issued guidance for homeowners who are keen to take advantage of new Green Deal upgrades.

The new guidance has been issued amidst fears that an increasing number of Green Deal cowboys are in operation, who are quick to fleece householders for any other work which arises out of the Green Deal work.

The work carried out under the Green Deal is regulated by certain controls which have been put in place. However, as TrustMark chairman Liz Male explains, it is the supplementary work which does not fall under the bracket of the Green Deal which is the route of the problem.

“We want to give the Green Deal every chance of becoming a roaring success, boosting the energy efficiency and comfort of homes across the UK. However, with the oldest housing stock in Europe, we are also well aware that many homes will require essential repair and maintenance work before they are in a position where solid wall insulation, new heating systems and other upgrades can be installed. Much of this work will not be covered by the Green Deal and therefore the consumer protection safeguards we have put in place will not apply. In this instance householders should turn to TrustMark registered tradesmen to complete the work.

“Having lobbied hard for a code of practice, we will not allow the Green Deal to be used by rogue traders as a method of deceiving or conning the public. The guidance we have set out includes clear advice to Green Deal providers that they must ensure any ‘ancillary works’ are completed properly by vetted and insured tradesmen who work under the TrustMark banner”.

The advice being given to householders wishing to be a part of the Green Deal scheme is not to be tempted to ask an installer to carry out any repair work as they are already in your home. You should always insist on using a TrustMark registered tradesmen, even if you are offered the repair, maintenance or improvement work there and then.

The leaflet is free to download at www.trustmark.org.uk/green-deal/.      

According to the Construction Industry Joint Council (CIJC), the minimum wage for construction workers is now £8.03 for general operatives and £10.67 for a craft worker.

In their announcement the CILJ state that the change will apply to workers who fall under the terms of the Working Rule Agreement, which totals some 500,000, but they don’t actually clarify who these “under the agreement” include.

Steve Murphy, the secretary for UCATT, said: “Construction workers undertake physically demanding, highly skilled jobs and it is essential that all companies covered by the CIJC pay the agreed increase.”

Although this is an obvious move forward for some people could there potentially be a negative effect for others?

An increase in minimum wages is always welcome, but are employers going to view this simply as an additional expense. If they have to employ someone on a higher wage, are they going to employ them or look for a solution elsewhere? Will the employer employ a person if the cost is greater than the value produced?

Take for instance a bricklayer who gets paid £10.67 per hour on a 40hour week (£426.80). This, along with a general operative’s wage of £321.20, produces a combined total of £748.00. At today’s rate of £300 per thousand for bricks, he needs to lay roughly 2500 bricks to cover his wages. If the bricklayer is only laying 1500 bricks, then is it worth him being employed?

So, is the increase a good thing? On a personal level I think the increase is too low. To become a qualified tradesperson through the NVQ route involves a lot of hard work and plenty of studying and commitment, with workers not reaching the top rate until they are fully qualified (if your are under twenty one then the minimum wage is less). The rise is also not in line with the level of inflation over the past few years so maybe it should be be recalculated. As the secretary of UCATT stated, “Construction workers undertake physical demanding highly skilled jobs”, so let the wages reflect this.

At last the proposed changes to ‘Part P’ have been announced, specifically the changes to electrical work in domestic premises that require notifying Building Control Services.
From April 2013, homeowners will no longer have to pre-notify certain electrical work in their homes, or have a registered (member of a competent person scheme) electrician complete the work. The financial saving to the homeowner for not having to pre-notify the work is in the region of £240 (depending where you live) per job.

So from April if you want to:

•    Fit an extra socket in your kitchen,
•    Fit extra security lighting to your home,
•    Fit an exterior socket (for the lawnmower)

You can, and you do not need to notify the work as was required previously.

Any electrical work being carried out in rooms containing a bath or shower will still require notification, as will the installation of any new circuit anywhere in the property.

These changes will not only save DIY homeowners a bit of cash; they also bring the requirements of ‘Part P’ more into line with BS7671 IET Wiring Regulations, in terms of Special Locations/Installations.

Before all you DIYers rush out to buy cable, sockets etc. from B&Q (other outlets are available) it might be a good idea to check your home insurance policy. If you do the job yourself and a problem occurs, will your insurance cover you? It would be a shame to save £200 only to find out your insurance is null and void and the cost of repairing your home will be your responsibility.

My advice would be: be careful, consider using a qualified electrician even if it is only to double check your work.

Mark Jenkins

The United Kingdom Government is due to announce changes to Part ‘P’. Part ‘P’ was introduced to improve the electrical safety within dwellings and requires some electrical work in dwellings to be pre-notified to building control authorities, or be carried out by members of an electrical competent person scheme. Part P is one of a number of approved documents that accompany the Building Regulations 2000.

The Building Regulations 2000 apply in England and Wales (Scotland and N Ireland have their own building regulations and versions of Part P). However, when the amendment to Part P comes out it will only apply in England.

The Building Regulations were devolved down to the Welsh Assembly in 2012; giving the Assembly the power to change the Building Regulations in Wales, and recent indications from the Assembly indicates there are no immediate plans to change the existing regulations.

So what does this mean for electricians?

If you work on the boarders of England, Scotland and Wales, you no longer have to only deal with the different paperwork and procedures devised by the different building control authorities when notifying work; you will now have different legislation requirements to cope with at the same time. This could end up being a paperwork nightmare, to such an extent that people may ‘forget’ to apply the requirements of Part P!

As Part P was intended to improve the electrical safety in dwellings, any watering down of its requirements could result in a compromise in people’s safety.

Surely the United Kingdom Government should ‘get a grip’ and unite with us a single set of regulations that apply in every area of the kingdom and help electricians to keep people safe in their homes.

Mark Jenkins.

TrustMark, the government endorsed quality mark for tradesmen, is looking to continue the progress it made in 2012, when its website racked up 3.9 million searches from homeowners looking for trustworthy local tradesmen.

Electricians experienced the largest rise in searches, benefitting from a 28 per cent rise in October compared with the same month last year. Following closely behind were searches for heating engineers, plumbers and glaziers, with many homeowners searching for tradesmen who could carry out urgent work on their properties given the poor weather conditions experienced across the UK.

All of the firms featured on the TrustMark site have had their technical skills independently checked during thorough onsite inspections, ensuring the high quality of the work on offer and the adherence to particular trading practices.

Stuart Carter, head of PR and marketing at TrustMark, said: “With the economy in its current state we are delighted to see such high numbers of viewings from homeowners searching for TrustMark tradesmen, particularly as it shows many still require a professional tradesman to do their work.

“TrustMark tradesmen’s searches have been increasing year on year and this considerable success has been a result of a number of marketing initiatives carried out during 2012 and working in partnership with key consumer organisations such as Citizens Advice, the Trading Standards Institute and National Home Improvement Council who are all signposting people to TrustMark.”          

The service, which has more than 23,000 licensed tradesmen on its database, is proving to be a big help to people looking for a good local firm who can do a great job at a reasonable price. TrustMark also has a simple complaints procedure which makes it easier to resolve any problems.

It will come as news to some of you that there is such a thing as a Considerate Contractors Scheme (CCS) in existence, which is due to publish its new code of practice in the new year, with the aim of making considerate contractors of us all.

The new regulations, which have been in development for the past three years, take the form of a five-point code. All CCS-registered sites and companies will be assessed against this code by scheme monitors, who will be charged with checking all registered sites and companies, as well as reporting and scoring the visit.

The new code, due to be implemented as of 1 January 2013, will replace the eight-point code which has remained largely unchanged for the past 15 years. However, with the expected standards having changed over the years, it is time raise the bar, with so many sites easily meeting the requirements of the code.

So, as of the new year, the five sections of the code will include:

•    Enhancing the appearance
•    Respecting the community
•    Protecting the environment
•    Securing safety
•    Caring for the workforce

To give contractors a thorough understanding of the new code, each section will be accompanied by an aspirational statement, along with four bullet points which list the areas the scheme considers within that section.

The latest incarnation of the Considerate Contractors Scheme is to introduce a scoring system, which scores each section out of a maximum 10 points. 5 points for each section signifies compliance, whilst a score of 10 signifies that registered sites or companies have introduced innovative practices or thinking that goes far beyond the expectations of the scheme, working to advance the standards by which the industry is judged.

Scheme chief executive Edward Hardy said: “After three years in development, the scheme is pleased to publish the new code and supporting documents. Working with a number of contractors and clients throughout the review process, the scheme is confident that the new code remains in keeping with the industry’s values, presenting an exciting challenge for registered sites and companies in raising the benchmark of considerate construction.”

The Green Deal has been launched by the government to help people heat and light their homes more efficiently and affordably. Britain has some of the oldest and most inefficient building stock in Europe and consumers pay a high price for running inefficient buildings. The innovative Green Deal financing mechanism allows householders to have energy efficiency improvements to their homes with little or no initial cash outlay and then to payback the cost of the measures over an extended period.

In the meantime, as well as enjoying improved comfort, householders will be able to reduce the impact of rising energy bills. The Green Deal has been designed to help finance the installation of a broad range of improvements from the insulation, glazing, microgeneration, lighting and heating sectors. The Green Deal’s ‘Golden Rule’ ensures that the savings associated with the measures must always match or exceed the installation costs.

Consumers will also receive advice about how they can save money by simple changes in behaviour. In short, you should save more than you spend. Interested householders will first receive a visit from an impartial, accredited Green Deal adviser, who will carry out a full survey of the home and a study of how the building is used. This information is used to produce a report which defines the measures recommended for each home. This report can be used to obtain quotations from as many Green Deal providers as desired. Once an acceptable quotation has been obtained and an agreement signed then an accredited Green Deal installer will carry out the work. The cost of the measures will be recovered by instalments applied to electricity bills for periods of up to 25 years.

Most of the 45 energy effi ciency improvements that qualify for Green Deal are well within the capability of a competent heating installer. With minimal additional training however, a further range of measures also becomes available. We are confident the majority of heating installers will be more than capable of implementing all such measures in order to take full advantage of the many new business opportunities that Green Deal will undoubtedly create.

Each Green Deal package of individual energy efficiency measures is carefully structured to ensure all measures are eligible for full or partial funding. Green Deal plans will be assembled in different ways depending on individual circumstances.

1. A very small number of Green Deal Plans will include measures that meet the Golden Rule & will receive 100% funding

2. Most arrangements will include a package of Green Deal measures that partially meet the Golden Rule but require additional funding from the improver

3. Green Deal measures for solid wall insulation (ie no cavity wall space) or difficult cavities will receive an ECO contribution to partially support the cost

4. Green Deal Plans for households in the Super Priority Group will receive 100% ECO funding under the Affordable Warmth Scheme.

Northern Ireland is setting the precedent for the rest of the UK to follow after new regulations introduced on 31 October made it a legal requirement for carbon monoxide (CO) alarms to be fitted in all homes where a new or replacement appliance, which is not used solely for cooking, is installed.

The Scottish government have been quick to follow suit and are currently consulting on the introduction of similar proposals, whilst the All-Party Parliamentary Carbon Monoxide Group (APPCOG) is creating as much noise as possible in a bid to convince the government in Westminster and the Welsh Assembly to revisit the outdated stance they have taken on the mandatory installation of CO alarms.

Currently homes in England and Wales are only legally required to fit carbon monoxide alarms if new or replacement appliances installed in their homes are powered by solid fuel, although industry figures do not think this is enough, and for good reason.

Recent research released by Energy UK shows there as many as 35 million people in the UK who are still at risk from carbon monoxide poisoning. Despite a good amount of publicity and work to increase awareness of the dangers of CO poisoning, many people still mistakenly believe their smoke alarm will detect the presence of carbon monoxide.

Despite this progress, some industry figures still believe the compulsory installation of carbon monoxide alarms is not enough, and the only way to remove the risk is to prevent CO from being produced, rather than merely detecting when it is. James Murray from the Gas Safe Register explains: “If we could ensure everyone has their safety appliances checked every year, more people would be safe from carbon monoxide. CO alarms are only a second line of defence, but are vital to alerting you of the gas’ presence.”

One thing is for sure: CO alarms alone are not the answer. As is all too often the case with smoke alarms, they are regularly installed and forgotten about, with homeowners believing themselves to be safe from fire thereafter, without conducting any maintenance checks to ensure batteries are live and sensors are still working.

Any progress on this issue is certainly welcomed, and for now, making the installation of carbon monoxide alarms compulsory in every UK home is certainly a good start. Watch this space...

A new strategy published by the Welsh government has been introduced to prompt contractors to take greater steps to increase the waste they recycle and reduce the amount sent to landfill.

The plan, which has been produced in tandem with Constructing Excellence in Wales, has a goal of reducing the amount of waste which ends up in landfill to close to zero by the end of 2025. The ultimate aim, by 2050, is to ensure 100 per cent of construction and demolition waste produced by the industry is recycled.

Currently the construction industry alone accounts for 14 per cent of Wales’ ecological footprint for waste, which environment minister John Griffiths believes needs to be reduced: “As well as being an integral contributor to the Welsh economy, the construction industry is a large consumer of natural resources, producing 12.2 million tonnes of waste each year in Wales alone.

"Taking action to reduce the environmental impact of the construction sector is critical as our current level of waste is totally unsustainable. We have an obligation to ensure we use our resources wisely.

“The ultimate aim is to turn high quality recycled waste into a valuable resource that does not cause environmental harm, rather than it ending up in landfill.”

If you’d like to take a look at the Welsh government’s strategy for yourself, then click here.

There are grounds for genuine optimism amongst British tradesmen, as the Japanese engineering giant Hitachi follows up its £700m acquisition of the Horizon nuclear project by expressing its long-term commitment to the UK infrastructure sector.

The construction project is to include the development of two or three 1300MW advanced boiling water reactor (ABWR) plants in two separate locations, Wylfa in Anglesey and Oldbury in Gloucestershire. It is estimated that each of these sites will support between 5,000 and 6,000 construction jobs, with the first of the units operational by 2025.

British businesses are also buoyed by the news, as, based on the experience gained during the development of four ABWR plants in Japan, 60 per cent of the project’s budget will be spent on materials, personnel and services from the local area.

Hitachi also intends to create a legacy of nuclear skills and training in the UK by working with local colleges and universities to introduce training programs and develop a permanent base of nuclear skills in the UK, leading to global demand for their skills.

The Hitachi president Hiroaki Nakanishi, said: “This is the start of a 100-year commitment to the UK and its vision to create a long-term, secure, low-carbon and affordable energy supply. We look forward to sharing Hitachi’s corporate vision and nuclear business with the management and employees of Horizon, working harmoniously with UK companies and stakeholders for the delivery of this vital part of the UK’s national infrastructure and the creation of a strong nuclear power company.

Energy minister John Hayes is hugely encouraged by this deal and the message that the rest of the world will receive, “that Britain’s economy is open and stable and committed to the development of new sources of nuclear energy.”

The project is to be supported by the Office for Nuclear Regulation and Environment Agency, who will work collaboratively with Hitachi to provide certainty that the reactor design will be fit for use in the UK. It is expected this will be a relatively straightforward process, given the approval the design of the reactor has already received from US nuclear authorities. 

The latest news hot off the press here at Access Training is the end of the level 3 inspection and testing qualification 2391 as we know it (with the exception of a few re-sit papers!). The qualification, aimed at electrical personnel who either carry out or supervise the testing and inspection of electrical installations, has been replaced by two separate qualifications, including:

2394 – Initial verification of electrical installations

2395 – Periodic inspection and testing of electrical installations

From information we have received from the Joint industry Board (JIB), if an electrician wants to earn their JIB ‘Gold Card’, they will be required to pass BOTH qualifications!

For those of you who have attempted the old 2391 in the past, the 2394 is in essence the same qualification with the addition of an online multiple choice paper, whilst the written element has been reduced to just a one and a half hour exam.

The 2395 consists of an online multiple choice exam (a common element of both qualifications), a visual inspection task, a periodic inspection and a test on a three phase or single phase installation, which will incorporate faults the candidate will be required to identify. There will also be a separate one and a half hour written paper.

Some of the concerns being aired by the industry include the fact that the separation of this qualification may work to dilute the kudos held by inspection engineers, as well as having the effect of dummying down the subject area. Having sat the 2395 examinations, I can assure you that no such dilution will take place. The new qualification is as demanding as the old 2391, and if anything the changes have led to the examination of a wider subject area.    

Author: Mark Jenkins