Codes and standards play an important role in plumbing. As the science and technology of plumbing undergoes tremendous changes, international codes ensure quality and safety through mandatory implementation. In this Skill Story, Neeta Sharma, Director, International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO-India), tells us how the organization is committed to imparting code based education and training in plumbing, besides publications, events and audits toward reaching their goal of health and social welfare.
IAPMO’s codes and standards
We are a part of IAPMO Group that makes codes and standards for plumbing across the globe . These standards and codes are adapted by the IAPMO -India to suit our geography, our water quality, sanitation, construction, safety etc. It is mandatory to implement the codes, whether it is for the plumbing products or the workforce in this profession. We partner with Indian Plumbing Association (IPA) to establish a model code of plumbing installation and maintenance for India.
Based on the codes, we derive educational programs for all levels of professionals – engineers, architects, contractors, supervisors, plumbers and technicians. We align with IPA for creating our programs and together, we are the the apex association representing the industry – with 20 chapters and more than 2000 members.
We started in India in 2007 by formulating the Uniform Plumbing Code (UPC) for India, vetted by the industry and converted into the Indian code to suit Indian scenario. Through the codes, we provide the best practices and illustrations to go with it. It covers all the requirements of plumbing – especially, the do’s and don’ts. For example, in countries like the USA, it is mandatory for any plumber to get certified and upskilled. Hence, the codes are revised every three years, taking into consideration the innovative materials and practices, and the professionals have to get certified accordingly. In India, currently we are into the third revision of our codes.
Education and training
We have several courses under Plumbing Education to Employment Program (PEEP). These include Plumbing Construction Management (PCM), Plumbing System Design (PSD), Plumbing Technology Program (PTM) and Plumbing Apprentice Program (PAP) for addressing the learning needs of the entire plumbing value chain.
We invite universities and institutions to partner with us and take the training program forward in their own way. The minimum duration is 150 hours that includes theory, practicals and assessments. It could either be a crash course in summer, or it could be integrated with some semester. The students take the program as a specialized subject and by the time they come out in the job market, they have vocational certificate and industry experience. We also align with the QPs and NOS of the Plumbing Sector Skill council (IPSSC) in matching the expecting outcomes from each course.
Vocational education and employability enhancement
We partnered with the government of Kerala for the Additional Skill Acquisition Program (ASAP) funded by ADB, conducted by department of education to train the high school students in vocational skills. Under the employability enhancement scheme, these programs are conducted in 14 districts of Kerala, equipped with industry standards labs and infrastructure. The ASAP program helps them go for higher studies or get into self-employment. The earning potential ranges from Rs.7000 to Rs.14000 depending on their skills and performance.
Plumbing has tremendous scope for career progression. A junior plumber, after certain years of experience, can become a master plumber and reach the level of a contractor. There is a dire need for trained plumbers, provided they are able to migrate to different places.
We are planning to offer our code- based programs in Odisha, where most plumbers come from. It is important to train and skill them, so that they know the implications of wrong processes and the benefits of doing things scientifically. The biggest challenge is to mobilize students for skill development. Teaching them in English is a challenge. So, we work with trainers who can deliver the programs in their own languages. We give them a complete training program which includes soft skills, ethics and computer skills.
Driving standards and quality
Prevention is better than cure! Sub-standard plumbing has a lot of impact on the health of the occupant. There are cases where poor plumbing practices have led to a lot of diseases and health issues. Through our programs they will be introduced to new concepts, new materials, why certain things should not be used – this makes it scientific and improves the quality of their work.
Our water efficient products are designed using the unique standards of IAPMO and IPA. This gives star rating for water appliances and how plumbing design can be tweaked to achieve these efficiencies. Our goal is to reduce maintenance costs and health risks by solving leakage and corrsion problems.
Industry adoption of codes and standards
In India, it is still not mandatory, for a client or contractor to use third-party certified material in plumbing. The industry needs to vet the materials and see if it can be used in a project. They should have proper testing facilities to proactively assess the performance depending on the type of construction, water quality, the geographical requirements.
Construction industry is rapidly transforming, the requirements have changed tremendously, earlier there were mostly two-storied or three to four-storied houses. Then, came the proliferation of multi-storied buildings and then multi-occupancy buildings. In such structures, the dynamics of water changes completely. For example, when 10 flushes are used at the same time, can you imagine the amount of water going down the drain. If the joints are not made properly in the innumerable pipes, so that there’s no turbulence in the pipe, there’s no leakage. These are the technical standards that are introduced through our codes and industry best practices. We are sure we will be making a huge difference to the plumbing industry and people at large.