Tom Reynolds, chief executive at the Bathroom Manufacturers Association, calls for tighter regulations in the plumbing and bathroom installation industry.
For bathroom manufacturers, the quality and competency of plumbers and installers is paramount. Our terminal fittings are one part of a wider system, so their performance depends on how a professional has configured that system. Too many times, manufacturers’ after-sales teams have been able to identify that consumers’ negative experience of their products has been down to poor installation.
I have a strong hunch about the root cause of the problem. Anyone, regardless of their skill level or business ethics, can wake up tomorrow, buy a white van and call themselves a plumber or installer. These gaps have given rise to rogue operators who not only compromise the safety and quality of installations but also jeopardise the reputation of our sector.
One of the critical challenges we face is the absence of statutory licensing for professionals in the plumbing and bathroom installation fields. In the UK, there is no requirement for training, qualifications, or experience to establish a plumbing business or claim the title of a bathroom installer. This regulatory vacuum not only undermines the credibility of our industry but also poses a significant risk to public safety.
Firstly, the Government should introduce statutory licensing to reserve the title ‘plumber’ for fully qualified professionals. The Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering (CIPHE) has been actively maintaining lists of qualified installers, providing the public with access to proficient professionals. By making the 'plumber' title exclusive to those with appropriate qualifications, we can ensure that individuals are seeking plumbing services from legitimate and competent sources.
Secondly, a similar recognition should be given to ‘bathroom installers’ for those registered with the British Institute for KBB Installation (BiKBBI). This will create a distinction between qualified bathroom installers and those who lack the necessary expertise. By giving credentialed professionals an official title, consumers can have confidence in the skills and knowledge of the installer they choose.
Thirdly, we should implement evidence-based, continuous professional development for the plumbing and heating industry, as well as for registered bathroom installers. This will ensure that professionals stay up to date with the latest industry standards and technologies. Regular training and development will lead to safer installations and improved product performance, benefitting both consumers and the industry itself.
Tighter regulations and ongoing training are imperative to prioritise safety and professionalism in our industry. These measures will not only protect consumers but also enhance the reputation of plumbing and bathroom installation as a whole. Additionally, such initiatives will encourage individuals within the industry to strive for excellence, knowing that their skills and qualifications are officially recognised.
The BMA is committed to working with Government bodies, industry associations like the CIPHE and BiKBBI, and other stakeholders to ensure that these reforms become a reality.