Regulation in the plumbing industry is important to preserving the integrity of projects and ensuring that any product used in a plumbing project is both safe and durable. This is why the Australian Government has developed the WaterMark Certification Scheme.
What is the WaterMark Certificate and how does it apply to plumbing products in Australia?
It is a “proof of quality” stamp that anyone who uses plumbing services should be aware of, and all plumbers should be able demonstrate that they are using WaterMark-certified products in any plumbing project that they’re involved in.
The WaterMark Certification Scheme is managed by the Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) for all plumbing and drainage products. Once a product has been certified, the WaterMark certification trademark must be printed onto the product. In addition, the ABCB maintains a database of all products with that certification, which can be accessed here.
The WaterMark Certification Scheme is effective because it is so rigorous, involving annual audits and an extensive testing process to obtain the certification in the first place.
There is a six-step process for obtaining WaterMark certification for any product to be used in a plumbing application:
- Firstly, the manufacturer needs to be qualified and accredited with certification bodies, such as IAPMO, SAI Global, and so on. Generally speaking, every manufacturer will be expected to have an ISO 9001 quality management certification before ABCB will even look at their product.
- A type test schedule follows, which is prepared by the certification body and based on the type of product being tested.
- Once the schedule has been determined, a properly accredited laboratory (with ISO/IEC 17025 accreditation) will test the product against the applicable standards.
- Should the product pass that test, it will have the WaterMark license released to it by the ABCB.
- The product and its product schedule will then be published in the ABCB website and online database.
- Finally, there will be an annual audit of the manufacturer’s site by the certification body to ensure that it remains in compliance.
In addition to the above, any product that obtains WaterMark accreditation needs to be manufactured in accordance with an approved quality assurance program (hence the need for an annual audit), and, while this goes without saying, it also needs to carry a full warranty.
The WaterMark certification system is comprehensive. The schedule of products, that is (at the time of writing) 45-pages long, covers everything from sanitary pumps to meters, humidifiers, food waste disposal units and washing machines. At any point in which you’re purchasing, stocking or specifying plumbing products including valves, be that for consumer or commercial use, you’ll want to be using WaterMark-certified products.
Why this matters and what you need to know about the industry’s standards
It’s important to note that not all plumbing and drainage products require WaterMark certification. Any product that will form part of a plumbing and drainage installation will require that a risk assessment be undertaken to determine whether WaterMark certification should be mandatory. Those products that are excluded from the system are included in a Schedule of Excluded Products to provide clarity over whether a product has been actively excluded, or has not yet been tested.
Despite the certification scheme, and the mandatory nature of WaterMark certification across a range of plumbing products, there are products available on the market that are not constructed to industry standards. As in most sectors there is a temptation to use these products as a cost-cutting exercise, which is why it’s so important that a certified product displays the WaterMark image, to denote that it is properly qualified for the use.
Plumbers in their job role, are responsible for facilitating clean water into the household or building, and then ensuring that waste water – including sewerage – is removed safely. Furthermore, the equipment that plumbers install needs to reliably operate 24/7 over a period of many years. This means the job is one that is critical to public health and safety. WaterMark certification is focused on these reliability and hygienic factors in plumbing, and customers should insist that their plumber demonstrate that the project will use WaterMark-certified products wherever necessary.
It’s for this reason that State and Federal Governments are becoming increasingly tough on anything they perceive to be unsafe in building and construction. For example, this year the Queensland Building and Construction Commission (QBCC) took the step to outright ban the sale and installation of plumbing products that do not carry the WaterMark certification. Furthermore, the government determined that it can (and will) now unilaterally ban any product that is determined to be unsafe, even after it has gained WaterMark certification, if necessary.
It’s an area that is simply too important to allow for poor standards. But WaterMark isn’t just about taking punitive steps against non-compliance. There’s a cost benefit in there for the consumer too. Non-certified plumbing products won’t carry the same guarantees around durability and be built to the same manufacturing standards. They will also take longer to install and will not function as efficiently as compliant products. In the long run, this will cost the consumer more, as they will need to be more frequently maintained or replaced by the plumber. Furthermore, a second plumber might be called to the site, realise that one of the components is non-compliant, and then require that the component be removed and replaced by a compliant one, which can become incredibly expensive for the end user.
Zetco Valves manufactures its products to the highest standards, and this includes ensuring that all valves meet the requirements for WaterMark certification. As part of its ISO 9001 Quality Management System, Zetco Valves has a rigorous, audited and compliant program of extensive testing to ensure that each product meets and exceeds the requirements for WaterMark (among others) certifications. Furthermore we randomly select samples in both the Australian and overseas manufacturing locations to ensure that all alloys are consistent with the highest applicable standards.
Zetco Valves also maintains Workplace Health & Safety AS 4801 certification, demonstrating the company’s ongoing commitment to ensuring that everything that it produces is done while providing an environment that promotes and supports the physical and psychological health and wellbeing of employees in the workplace.