Written by IAPMO 9:26 am ASSE, Industry News, Plumbing News

Why is the Service Plumbing Industry so Important?

And why does the industry need a nationally recognized standard and certification program?

By Scott Hamilton

Starting in 2700 BC with the installation of plumbing systems in the Indus Valley Civilization, service plumbing has played a critical part in maintaining the proper working conditions of plumbing systems. In 2008, the country entered a terrible recession. New construction all but stopped. Many plumbing contractors had to drastically downsize their workforce while others simply closed their doors. Plumbers who worked construction saw their work hours diminish and many had to travel to the few areas that had work or find another job outside of the plumbing industry. It was devastating to contractors, plumbers, and their families. Today, the economy is in question once again. However, there is one part of the plumbing industry that does not strongly feel the effects of a recession – service plumbing.

Plumbing has always played an integral part in any developed country. Proper sanitation and clean drinking water play everyday roles of protecting the health of the nation. The industry uses strong plumbing codes, and product and professional standards to ensure that plumbing systems are installed correctly. Inspectors play the last line of defense for public safety – they enforce plumbing codes and standards, and provide final assurance that systems are safe and in proper working order.

Apprenticeship and continuing education also play major roles in the plumbing industry. Technology has played a major role in the improvement of plumbing fixtures, appliances, materials, tools, and design. Anyone who wishes to remain productive in the plumbing industry has to be educated on all of the current technology and safety measures. This especially applies to the service plumber.

Safety in the plumbing industry has never played such an important role as right now. Service plumbers will typically work on existing systems, including drain and vent systems. These systems could expose the technician to a variety of very dangerous pathogens like the COVID-19 virus. Safety, training, certification, and the use of personal protective equipment is critical in not only the technician’s safety, but also the safety of the public.

Why is the service plumbing industry so important? There are several reasons. Let’s start with the health and safety aspect. All plumbing systems are designed and installed to provide clean, safe drinking water and remove waste in a sanitary method. Gas systems and appliances are also designed and installed to protect the safety of those within the house or building. One of the issues is that everything has a life span – things eventually break down and need to be repaired or replaced. Your water heater is an example of this. Issues with the burner or electrical elements can be repaired; a leaking tank needs to be replaced. Materials used in waste systems can eventually breakdown and will need to be replaced. The other issue has to do with system misuse. An example of this would be flushing materials that are not intended to be flushed, such as baby wipes. Issues within a plumbing or gas system should be dealt with quickly. These issues, if left unattended, could pose health and safety risks. Unfortunately, too many stories about gas explosions are in the news today. A gas leak, if left unattended, could start to build up and, when exposed to a flame or spark, cause an explosion. An improperly ventilated gas water heater could leak carbon monoxide into the home and could cause death. A dripping drain not only lets sewer water escape into your house, which is unsanitary, but it also provides an excellent opportunity for mold growth.

Next, let’s discuss the financial reasons why the service plumbing industry is important. As a home or building owner, it is fiscally responsible to have any issues repaired quickly. Plumbing issues do not correct themselves, nor will they go away. The fact is, they get worse. A faucet that drips only 10 times per minute will waste 1.44 gallons a day, which equals 525.6 gallons a year. Not only does this cost money, but it also wastes our most valuable resource, water. We discussed the issues with a leaking drain line – if it is taken care of quickly, the damages will be held to a minimum and mold will not have a chance to grow. These are just a very few examples.

Now let’s look at the service plumber and plumbing service contractor. As I stated, service plumbing is a constant source of business. The economy has less of an effect on this industry compared to construction. The fact is, this is a multi-billion-dollar business every year. It doesn’t matter if the building is built traditionally or was prefabricated off-site and built in pieces – it will require maintenance and service. It is also a business that has immediate impact. The service plumber resolves issues as quickly as possible and can see the positive impact that their work has on families. It is also a business that requires payment upon completion. The contractor is no longer waiting more than 90 days for payment while having the money already spent on the material and labor used. It provides an immediate cash flow for the contractor.

I have discussed a few of the major reasons why the plumbing service industry is important. Now let’s discuss why the industry came to ASSE requesting the development of a professional qualifications standard. Through the decades, there has never been a nationally recognized standard and certification program for the service plumber. So why does the industry need this? Not all service plumbers and contractors are the same. The industry strongly feels that there needs to be a minimum standard that service plumbers and contractors should meet. The public image of the plumbing industry is greatly formed by the service plumber. The service plumber is the individual who has person to person contact with the public every day – the plumber who works construction is rarely seen by the public. Because of this, the plumber’s image rests mainly with the service plumber. The plumbing industry would like to change the “Plumber’s Butt” image to a more professional reputation. In order to acquire this professional image, customer service must take priority. From the first phone call to final payment, the customer must be treated in a professional manner. The service plumber should be dressed professionally, preferably in a clean company uniform. Good personal hygiene is a must. The service plumber should have photo identification, along with a business card. He or she should have good listening and communication skills and treat the customer’s house or business as if it is their own, if not better. Do not track dirt throughout the house. Protect everything from possible damage during repair. Always communicate your diagnosis clearly and explain the options that the customer has. Discuss the benefits and costs for repair compared to replacement. Always take pictures during the repair to document the before and after. Once the work is completed, clearly explain to the customer the work that was performed, the materials used, and the billing. Answer any questions and inquire if there is anything else requiring attention. The professional relationship built with a customer is by far a company’s best advertising.

Customers now have access to the web, which provides them with more information than before. It is important that the service plumber be highly trained and have thorough knowledge of the work to be completed. Nothing could be worse than a customer knowing more about the repair than the trained professional. ASSE Series 13000, Service Plumber and Residential Mechanical Service Technician Professional Qualifications Standard, states the minimum training qualifications a certified service plumber should have. The ASSE certification exam covers these important subjects in a written exam and in practical service scenarios.

The customer deserves to have a qualified service plumber working in their family’s home. Until now, the customer would blindly call a service contractor and hope that they get someone good and reputable. The customer should feel comfortable allowing a service plumber into their home and know that no damage will be done. There were no assurances – until now. The industry developed, ANSI approved ASSE Series 13000 provides the customer with comfort knowing that an ASSE certified service plumber meets an industry standard for plumbing repair and customer service. The blind search is over. Insist on using an ASSE certified service plumber for all of your future repair needs.

Article Courtesy of Working Pressure magazine

Last modified: June 29, 2020