SqwidNet partners with the Institute of Plumbing South Africa to transform plumber training in the industry. The Digital Plumber Training Program provides 4IR skills to future proof the business of plumbers and drive water-saving behaviour across the country.
SqwidNet, the only licensed Sigfox operator in South Africa, has partnered with the country’s leading plumbing body, the Institute of Plumbing South Africa (IOPSA), to launch a South African first: the Digital Plumber Training Programme. This unique training programme was developed in collaboration with Macrocomm, an IoT (Internet of Things) company, and Ontec (a leading utility services provider) to provide plumbers with the digital skills and practical know-how required to embrace the digital era, advance their customer offering and grow their business.
“Plumbers sit at the forefront of the water challenges currently facing South Africa, but only a few know how digital solutions can eradicate many of these challenges,” says Phathizwe Malinga, managing director of SqwidNet. “This training programme is designed to empower plumbers so they can digitise their current service to their customers, commercially evolve their offerings, and drive adoption of smart water solutions.”
The Digital Plumber Training Programme designed by Macrocomm’s Smart Academy consists of two modules: a Technical and Installation Module, and a Personal Selling Module. The Personal Selling module adds uniqueness and depth to the programme by focussing on the propositioning and business acumen aspects needed by plumbers to develop their business model, and confidently articulate the digital-solution value to customers.
IOPSA and the Plumbing Industry Registration Body (PIRB) have accredited the programme and awarded four CPD (Continuing Professional Development) points to the Technical and Installation module, and three CPD points to the Personal Selling Module. Plumbers require 25 CPD points per year to maintain their professional registration with PIRB. This programme supports and promotes the continuous development of the plumber’s skills and knowledge; offering plumbers a novel way to remain relevant and compliant with registration requirements. This training programme was originally developed as a hands-on, in-class programme, has subsequently been adapted to an online programme to suit the new regulations put in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We crafted a specialised offering for plumbers that is designed to give them the skills, understanding, and expertise they need to expand their market share and offer their customers new and inventive solutions,” says Nick Joubert, National Training Manager at IOPSA. “They can use the skills that they learn in the programme to create consumer-friendly solutions, that they can easily sell. Certified Digital Plumbers have the flexibility to bundle the offering as their own or develop it into more advanced solutions for the business market through partnerships.”
“The training programme itself is delivered by IOPSA and Macrocomm, both companies providing essential expertise and support to those attending the course,” says Joubert. “It is focused on upskilling plumbers and assisting them with the transition to the IoT based smart water solutions. It also introduces them to SABS approved smart water solutions that leverage IoT to meet the pressing water scarcity issues in the country.”
Complimentary to the Digital Plumber training is an off-the-shelf Sigfox enabled smart water solution, designed, and built with SqwidNet partners, Macrocomm and Ontec. The solution is intuitive, simple, and cost-effective – ideally suited for certified digital plumbers to take to market.
SqwidNet Chief Solution Officer, Ushal Moonsamy adds that bringing together expert partners was crucial in designing the ground-breaking Digital Plumber initiative. This has resulted in the crafting of a holistic solution for plumbers that includes IoT technical and sales skills development, an easy to use smart water product, nationwide availability, and support. “It’s this type of trust and collaboration that shifts industries forward, changes behaviours and achieves exponential outcomes.”
The smart water meter solution allows certified digital plumbers to convert their customers’ ordinary water meters quickly and easily into smart water meters. The solution enables the plumber to advance their offering by providing a service to proactively manage leak detection, effect necessary repairs and maintenance repairs, and systematic ways in which to reduce water consumption. When the solution detects water leaks, it instantaneously notifies the homeowner or business owner, and the plumber who can quickly and proactively fix the problem. The solution not only offers immense financial value to the user in terms of preventing bill shock – sudden astronomical bill due to undetected leaks - but also provides everyone with real-time awareness of their water usage and consumption patterns over time. The smart water solution is app-enabled - using their mobile device, users can set goals, monitor their usage, and constructively challenge themselves to change their water-using habits.
“Understanding how and when water is used not only saves money for the customer, but it also goes a long way towards managing the current water crisis,” concludes Malinga. “Every part of this solution, from the training course to the tools and solutions on offer, has been designed to support one of the very real challenges that our country faces today.”
The Digital Plumber Training Programme, developed by SqwidNet, Macrocomm, Ontec, and IOPSA, is the first accredited training programme of its kind in South Africa and the local industry. It creates new opportunities for plumbers in the country and ensures that they gain highly relevant skills while completing their mandatory CPD training and simultaneously changing the game in water conservation.
Thank you for your request for advice for plumbers to flush out pipes impacted by water stagnation during the COVID-19 lockdown. The information provided here is intended to raise awareness and provide guidance on water quality issues pertinent to stagnation resulting from the COVID-19 lockdowns with specific reference to Legionella risks. The information is based on literature currently available. As more research is done information may change.
Guidance to managing Legionella risks in building water systems with no or reduced occupancy during COVID-19 lockdown
In compliance to the government COVID-19 lockdown regulations, many buildings including offices, retail outlets, restaurants, hotels, factories, schools, gyms, community centres among others were left unused or sub-operational with no or low occupancy for a significant amount of time. This leads to potential water stagnation in water pipes, fixtures, and storage tanks as water usage was reduced significantly or brought to a halt in some instances. Another possible consequence of the lockdown is the inability to monitor and maintain cold or hot water systems as required. These conditions can create hazards due to deterioration of water quality with possible adverse health risks to returning occupants.
Building water quality concerns during lockdown
As the government begins to ease lockdown restrictions and more companies prepare to re-open, it is important that building owners and operators are aware of concerns that could threaten the quality and safety of the water in their premises. An unintended health risk that could result from the fight against COVID-19 is legionellosis. Legionella infections can cause Legionnaires’ disease (a severe type of pneumonia) and Pontiac fever (a mild form), collectively known as legionellosis. Persons with compromised immune systems are at risk of contracting the disease, similar to COVID-19.
A conducive environment for Legionella growth
Building water systems and devices impacted by stagnation
Systems and devices that are prone to water stagnation during a lockdown include:
Recommendations to safe re-opening of buildings during or after the risk-adjusted easing of COVID-19 lockdown
Building owners and operators must take all reasonably practicable precautions to control any water hygiene-related risks that may have arisen during the lockdown such as Legionella growth. Professional assistance is recommended to evaluate these factors so that appropriate measures can be taken. Given the variability and complexity of plumbing, generalizations are not possible. The main concern is whether the water poses unacceptable health risks to building occupants, which can differ drastically in terms of building size and complexity, length of shutdown, likely integrity of the system, vulnerability of occupants, and water uses. All procedures implemented should be documented.
Risk assessments are done to check system integrity and should inform measures to be followed to restore water quality to pre-COVID conditions.
Flushing replaces low quality water with high quality ‘fresh water’ from the municipal supply thereby removing contaminants and biofilms that accumulated during stagnation. Repeated flushing maybe required to bring the building water system back to baseline conditions
· Consider flushing the entire building water system including hot and cold water through all points of use (showers, faucets etc.)
· Flushing should proceed in one direction and zone-by zone, starting from the point of entry going progressively to the distal points of the plumbing system
· Consider removing some plumbing components (aerators, showerheads, filters) that restrict flow rates but remember to clean and disinfect bypassed components
Clean and disinfect fixtures
Some components of the water system need additional measures because they can generate aerosols. Cleaning of fixtures removes contaminants and biofilms from the complex internal structures at the point of discharge.
Disinfection is particularly important when the facility serves a vulnerable population, such as immune-compromised individuals or the building is a large system with a history of contamination with Legionella or other harmful microorganisms
How do you know if your procedure has been effective and water is now safe for use?
Ensure safety of workers during the flushing, cleaning and disinfection procedures
The information provided here is intended to raise awareness and provide guidance on water quality issues pertinent to stagnation resulting from the COVID-19 lockdowns with specific reference to Legionella risks. The information is based on literature currently available. As more research is done information may change.
Noncy Gomba, PhD
Senior Research Scientist
National Health Laboratory Service
National Institute for Occupational Health
Immunology and Microbiology Department
PO Box 4788, Johannesburg, 2000, RSA
Office: +27 (0) 11 712 6404
Email: NoncyG@nioh.ac.za | Website: http://www.nhls.ac.za; http://www.nioh.ac.za
CDC Guidance for Building Water Systems: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/php/building-water-system.html
CDC Guidance for Building Water Systems: Ensure the safety of your building water system and devices after a prolonged shutdown (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/php/building-water-system.html)
Proctor, C., Rhoads, W., Keane, T., Salehi, M., Hamilton, K., Pieper, K. J., … Whelton, A. (2020, April 8). Considerations for Large Building Water Quality after Extended Stagnation. https://doi.org/10.31219/osf.io/qvj3b
Rhoads, William, and Caitlin Proctor. “Frequently Asked Questions - Building Water Safety in Response to COVID-19.” Center for Plumbing Safety - Purdue University, Purdue University, engineering.purdue.edu/PlumbingSafety/covid19/faq-building-water-safety.
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Rehabilitating Stagnant Water Systems
Post SA Lockdown COVID 19
Dear valued members
As soon as the South African Lockdown COVID-19 period ends, people will start heading back to their work premises that have for weeks now been unoccupied or sparsely used as a result of the lockdown.
We point out that that water not drawn through a plumbing system within a building over an extended period of time will become stagnant.
Stagnation of water within building pipes and other water systems may contain excessive amounts of heavy metals. As a result this may support the accelerated growth of many microorganisms and pathogens, such as Legionella Pneumophila https://www.who.int/ that can cause great harm to building occupants. Just as with the COVID-19, those that are at the greatest risk of becoming ill from such pathogens are the elderly and those who are immunocompromised.Plumbing systems will therefore have to be prepared for regular use again and IOPSA urges all its members to please place high importance on protecting the public’s health and safety. Therefore, attention should be given to the rehabilitation of such water systems within 5-7 days before the building is re-occupied. Please note that this period may vary from the periods given by local authorities and this would also need to be taken into consideration.
Below are some guidelines and best practices to be considered to rehabilitate a stagnant water line for regular use again:
Flushing of all water systems
The flushing of the water system will depend and differ from building to building. Factors such as building reticulation design and distance from service connection will be one of many factors to consider when trying to determine the time per terminal point to be flushed.
Taking the above into account, IOPSA cannot give an exact time to allow such purging of stagnant water from each point. The licenced plumber will have to evaluate each case on merit and also take into account means to try reduce unnecessary water wastage such as the testing of water quality.
IOPSA encourages good health practices and we urge our members and their staff attending to such rehabilitation of stagnant water systems to please take care and wear the correct PPE. Remember to open taps slowly to avoid splashing and before flushing toilets to close the toilet lids to prevent aerosols filling or splashing from the toilet.
Other building water systems
All other water systems in a building, such as water re-use systems (storage tanks), water features such as fountains, and irrigation systems will need to be flushed. Please remember to follow the manufacturer recommendations for disinfecting such water systems. Please refer to SANS 10252-1 ref 6.5.2 and 9.3.2 for more guidance.
Floor drains and grease traps
In respect of buildings that have floor drains - be sure to clean and flush the drain and to make sure that the trap is fully restored in order to keep sewer gases from entering the building.
Grease traps and gulleys need to be cleared, cleaned, and flushed.
Removal and cleaning of end-point devices such as faucet aerators, drinking fountain, water filtration systems, point of use water heaters and filtration systems would be a good practice.
(Please consult the manufacturer on specific procedures to be followed)
We recommend that should the occupants need to drink water that they either use bottled water or boil the water first and allow it to cool down before consuming it. This should be implemented for at least the first week of re-occupying the building to allow the water lines to be sufficiently flushed.
IOPSA Management and staff take this opportunity to thank each and every IOPSA member for their role and contribution to the plumbing industry and especially to the health and safety of our nation.
Steve van Zyl
National Technical Manager
This document may be amended as we identify new or better remedial procedures and recommendations that can be made in protecting our potable water.
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Without modern plumbing in our homes – proper pipework, running water, flushing toilets and the ability to shower, we would find life challenging to say the least as well as somewhat unhygienic! Water is THE most essential constituent for life on earth, in so far as plumbing has evolved to being one of the cornerstones on which modern society has evolved. Plumbing – so important, fundamental and central to civilization in general, that even the great Roman empire recognized how a knowledge and understanding of plumbing, sewerage and waterworks was essential to the advancement of society.
With an ever-increasing population in high density urban areas life as we currently know it wouldn't be possible without plumbers – working hard in a profession of which they can be justifiably proud!
According to a British Medical Journal reader survey - Sanitation was the single most important medical advance since 1840 and South Africans can be proud of the fact that due to their excellent sanitation systems they have one of the best public health records in the Western world.
So, who takes responsibility for South Africa’s sanitary systems?
It’s you the Proud South African Plumber; who, continues to uphold, encourage and monitor a consistent, efficient and reliable plumbing environment, so as to safe guard and serve the public of this proud nation – South Africa.
So when you as a Proud and registered Plumber comes to repair a burst geyser, a water leak, a blocked drain, or an interrupted water supply the public can be confident and secure in the knowledge that the tradesperson who answers their call is a skilled Professional known as a Plumber!
In its response to the coronavirus pandemic the South African government has identified that the plumbing industry is indispensable and that PLUMBERS are ESSENTIAL WORKERS.
If ever South Africa needed it’s Plumbers - it is NOW!
During this time of Lock-Down due to the Corona-virus we NEED the services of you as our Proud Plumbers because who else is going to keep the Nation’s water running in our homes, our hotels, our HOSPITALS and wherever we need water to WASH OUR HANDS and a myriad of surfaces in hot soapy water in order to help beat this virus? We NEED professional PLUMBERS, Tradespersons that know how to keep vital services running. It’s the Plumbing profession that keeps this country CLEAN, who not only fix the leaks and keep the water running through the Nation’s taps but who keeps the whole waste-water system functioning, the sewers working and many of the nation’s appliances securely plumbed in!
We honour the Doctors, the Nurses all the staff that work in hospitals and medical centres. We applaud those that keep our telecommunications open and working, we admire those who keep our information technology systems up and running. We even have a sneaking admiration for our bin-men, our defence force and for those that work in transportation and logistics, the food and agriculture sectors – but so often we forget how important our Plumbers AND the Plumbing Industry are.
But NO MORE!
South African PLUMBERS – we not only respect and appreciate your contribution towards your community – we SALUTE YOU and we THANK you for your valuable and vital contribution towards our nation!
Be Plumber Proud!
IOPSA and PIRB set out in partnership with Harambee to find out how our industry is currently coping with the Lockdown and if they are trading as an essential service.
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