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  • 08 Apr 2021 10:20 AM | Anonymous

    The following is an article by Yolandi Esterhuizen, who is responsible for the interpretation and implementation of tax and labour law requirements for Sage HR & Payroll’s products in South Africa and Africa. It is not directly aimed at plumbers, but any small business.

    “Developing a product or service that people need, want, and are willing to pay for takes skill, hard work, and of course, some luck. And in your first year of business, working on what you sell can be all-consuming. But there are other areas of your business that, if left unattended, can derail your hard work – tax compliance is among the most important.

    By understanding your business’s tax responsibilities and putting the right systems in place to meet those requirements, you’ll avoid costly mistakes and frustration and, most crucially, improve your chances of running a successful business.

    We’ve put together a guide to help you navigate the tax during your first year in business.

    To register or not?

    The type of business structure you choose will impact how you pay tax. The simplest is to run your business as a sole proprietorship, which comes with the following tax-related benefits:

    Less paperwork – you are not required to legally register your business because a sole proprietorship is not a legal entity, i.e., there’s no separation between the business and the owner/proprietor. However, you will still be required to register with SARS, as an individual, for the relevant taxes.

    Easier tax returns – your business’s taxable income is simply included in your personal tax return, though you will be required to make provisional tax payments (more on this in the next section).

    Lower effective tax rate – the profits your business makes will be taxed at your individual marginal tax rate, whereas profits in a registered company are subject to corporate income tax (CIT) of 28% (27% from next year). Below a certain revenue threshold, you’ll pay less tax as a sole proprietor.

    Of course, there are some good reasons to register your company: it adds an element of credibility to your business; it allows your business to access funding and creates a separate legal entity that protects your personal assets from creditors.

    If you decide to register your business, the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) has an easy-to-follow online registration process. Once registered, SARS will automatically generate an Income Tax number for your business that you’ll use as a reference when submitting your tax returns and payments.

    Welcome to provisional tax

    So that you aren’t lumped with one large tax bill every year, businesses are required to pay their annual income tax in three separate instalments, known as provisional tax, as per the below schedule:

    First: six months from the start of your financial year

    Second: at your financial year end

    Third: six months after your financial year end

    The first two payments are based on estimated taxable income because you are required to submit before the end of each period so you can’t know the exact amount. The third payment exists in case you underestimated your income and, as a result, paid too little tax.

    Similarly, if you overestimated your income, the third submission may lead to a tax refund. The form that substantiates your calculations for each period – detailing your income and deductible expenditure – is called an IRP6. You will need to submit three of these forms in every tax year.

    Within 12 months of your financial year end, you are also required to submit an ITR12 (if you’re running your business as a sole proprietor) or an ITR14 (if you’ve registered your business). In this form, you are required to declare your total income and deductible expenses for your financial year so that SARS can calculate whether you’ve paid the correct amount of tax, or if an additional payment or refund is due.

    Deductible expenses

    In calculating your taxable income for your provisional payments, you are permitted to deduct certain business-related expenses from your turnover. Here are some examples of the expenses you may be allowed to deduct from your revenue to reduce your taxable income and, by extension, the taxes you pay:

    • ·       Day-to-day business expenses (rent, salaries, equipment, office supplies, etc.)
    • ·       Capital expenses (business vehicles, renovations, hardware, etc.)
    • ·       Entertainment expenses
    • ·       Business start-up expenses
    • ·       Education expenses
    • ·       Losses accrued in previous periods

    If you run your business from home, you’ll be able to deduct a portion of certain expenses when calculating your taxable income.

    What you’re permitted to deduct is often nuanced so involving a tax practitioner to remain compliant is advisable.

    What’s the deal with VAT?

    You are only required to register for VAT once your business generates or is expected to generate taxable supplies in excess of R1 million over any rolling 12-month period. Once that threshold is crossed, you have 21 days to submit your VAT registration either via eFiling or by completing a VAT101 registration form and handing it in at a SARS branch. If your business has made more than R50,000 in the last 12 months but remains under the R1 million threshold, you may still register for VAT voluntarily – in some cases this makes sense.

    Once you’re a registered VAT vendor, you’ll need to add 15% to invoices you send to your customers, making sure to collect (and not spend) those monies. Then, you are required to submit a VAT 201 form, accompanied by a payment to SARS for the VAT you’ve charged and collected on behalf of the government.

    As a VAT vendor, you are entitled to offset the amount of VAT you owe to SARS (known as output tax) against your business-related expenses on which you were required to pay VAT (known as input tax). If the latter is in excess of the former, SARS will need to refund you the difference within 21 days of you submitting your VAT return.

    The frequency of your VAT submissions and payments depends on the ‘taxable period’ your business qualifies for. As a general rule, businesses with less than R30 million in annual turnover will be required to submit every second month, while businesses with revenue above that threshold must submit monthly.

    Manual VAT payments – via post and SARS branches – must be made no later than the 25th of each month, while electronic VAT payments can be made on the last day of the month.

    How to handle PAYE, SDL, and UIF

    You may need to hire people in your new business. As soon as you employ someone, you become responsible for certain deductions from that employee’s remuneration and/or contributions, which are subsequently paid to SARS.

    These include:

    • ·       PAYE (pay-as-you-earn): This is the personal income tax, owed to the government by the employee on their remuneration, that you as their employer must withhold and then pay over to SARS. You have 21 days from hiring your first employee to register for PAYE, unless their level of income exempts them from paying taxes.
    • ·       UIF (Unemployment Insurance Fund): An amount equal to 2% of your employee’s remuneration must be paid to SARS on a monthly basis. 1% is deducted from the portion of your employee’s remuneration that is subject to UIF, while the other 1% is contributed by your business. You are required to register for and pay UIF if you are registered at SARS for PAYE. You can register directly at the UIF if you are not required to register for PAYE, and make direct payments to them.
    • ·       SDL (Skills Development Levy): If your total employee remuneration is expected to exceed R500,000 over the next 12 months, your business will need to register and pay the SDL. An amount equal to 1% of your employee’s remuneration, subject to SDL, must be contributed by you as the employer. This levy is paid to SARS which is then allocated to a SETA (sector education and training authority) for learning and development initiatives within South Africa. As the employer, you can claim back some of your SDL contributions by submitting your Annual Training Report (ATR) and Workplace Skills Plan (WSP) to the SETA you are registered with before the end of April each year.

    These provisions, and the payment thereof, are handled in a single form. An EMP201 must be submitted on a monthly basis, no later than the 7th day of the following month, or the Friday before that day if the 7th falls on a weekend or public holiday declaring the total amounts due for PAYE, UIF, and SDL. A payment to SARS for that amount must be made within the same timeframe.

    In addition, you’ll be required to submit an EMP501 twice a year. This form essentially reconciles the EMP201’s you’ve already submitted with the payments you’ve made, and the employee tax certificates (known as IRP5’s, the document your employees need for their own tax submissions) you’ve generated. Here’s a SARS guide to accessing the new features for Monthly Employer Declaration (EMP201) on eFiling.

    Registering for PAYE, SDL, and UIF can be done simultaneously on the eFiling website.

    One step at a time

    We know this looks daunting. But registrations are once-off events, and many of the submissions discussed above can be simplified with the right software. Take small steps. Breathe. Check things off your to-do-list. You will get there.

    If you need help, speak to a registered tax practitioner and/or a payroll specialist. There are many cost-effective, time-saving solutions that will give you the comfort of tax compliance, and the energy and motivation to tackle your next business challenge.”

    WRITTEN BY Eamonn Ryan

  • 09 Mar 2021 10:12 AM | Anonymous

    Unqualified people doing plumbing work may come cheap and one will end up paying more in the long run. If you have money to throw away carry on!

    But an unqualified person installing a geyser is irresponsible on the part of the homeowner as this can be a potential bomb. As the homeowner the law is clear, any installation done in ones home is the homeowner’s responsibility. Sure, one cannot do the installation but you must ensure, and this includes insurance company plumbers, that the installer is qualified. Qualified, being he/she has completed an apprenticeship/learnership and passed a trade test.

    Confirmation of this can be done on the PIRB.CO.ZA website. No one may install a geyser if they are not registered with the Plumbing Industry Registration Board (PIRB). They will supply a certificate of compliance (CoC) to you or to the insurer. Best you have a copy as well as the insurance company. A certificate from the local authority is a certificate of completion between plumber and municipality, not compliance as provided by PIRB which is between plumber and homeowner.

    Here is an example of a recent installation and the comments from the manufacturer. NB it is the installation that is the problem not the geyser!

    Gives an idea of  how one can be placing the lives of one’s family at risk, never mind the fact that the insurer will not pay out.

    Here are the comments from a manufacturer:

    “Yes, I would not sleep in that house with that installation. It is potentially a bomb.

    The following is very dangerous:

    1. The safety valve that is in the top of this geyser should be plumbed out with a 22mm metallic pipe directly to the outside of the building with no obstruction. SANS 10254 allows for 2 x 45 degree bends on such installation. In this example it is clearly a 15mm copper pipe that goes into a 90 degree bend and then t’s into a pex pipe in conjunction with the relief valve – very illegal and dangerous.
    2. The most scary part of this installation is the fact that there is a shut off valve that has been closed. Should this geyser overheat or over pressurise, the shut off valve would prevent the safety valve to function
    3. The vacuum breakers are not at least 300mm above the tank. This is not dangerous, but will possibly case damage to the tank and shorten its lifespan.

    In this installation – should the thermostat fail, the geyser will boil, over-pressurise and ultimately burst. At least there is a thermal cut off fuse inside the thermostat that will cut electricity to the element should the tank start boiling.

    If the pressure reducing valve fails, the geyser’s safety valve would also not be able to de-pressurise through the safety valve as it is blocked by the shut off valve.

    The illegal shut off valve is also restricting the Cobra Masterflo 2 valve from relieving excess pressure from the tank. As the tank heats the water inside it expands and the valve drips out up to 1 litre per day to make sure the geyser stays within operational pressure.

    This installation is extremely dangerous and entirely to blame on the very poor installation. The safety aspects is completely bypassed.

    Have a look at this clip:

    In this clip both the safety valve was blanked off, as is the case here and they bypassed the thermal fuse. Luckily the thermal fuse in SA geysers will prevent boiling. “


  • 01 Mar 2021 2:20 PM | Anonymous

    Unemployment is a critical issue for South Africa as a developing country, with an unemployment rate projected at 36.495% at the end of December 2021 and the current youth unemployment rate of 55.75% . The lack of skilled artisans is a major barrier to job creation and economic growth hence the need to facilitate the training and upskilling of youth in artisanal trades in order to encourage job creation and economic growth locally rather than looking outside of the country for the correct skillset.

    IOPSA is involved in a multitude of private and public plumbing training projects such as Appenticeships, Artisan Recognition of Prior Learning, Centres of Specialisation and Installation, repair an maintenance to name a few.

    Click here to download our formal report
  • 01 Mar 2021 11:29 AM | Anonymous

    This report offers an overview of the findings of the analysis obtained from the tracer study of the Dual System Pilot Project (DSPP) as well as the COS (Centres of Specialisation) apprenticeship programmes. The respondents within this tracer are as follows: Of the 141

    DSPP respondents, 79,4% are undertaking their training to become electricians whilst 19,2% are undertaking training to become plumbers. In COS, there was a more even distribution across various trades; the majority of the respondents were spread across respondents training to become electricians, Carpenters/Joiners and Mechanical Fitters. The tracer study found that within this respondent group the DSPP programme respondents were typically older (between 26 and 30 years of age). had higher qualifications (almost half have N5‐6) and were more evenly balanced in terms of gender than the COS respondents.

    The report also found that the expectations of the COS respondents were focused on both the acquisition of knowledge and skills and accessing employment, whilst DSPP respondents

    – possibly because they are older and have higher qualifications – were primarily focused on accessing employment. These varied expectations may explain their views on the programme and the extent to which their expectations have been met.

    A concern that emerged, with respect to the selection of participants, is that whilst almost all respondents were made aware of the opportunity through the college the selection processes appear to have varied between the DSPP and COS programme: while 158 COS respondents said they were interviewed by the employer before being selected to the programme and only 11 of the DSPP respondents said they were interviewed by the employer before being selected for the programme.

    Click here to download the formal notice

  • 07 Dec 2020 3:27 PM | Anonymous

    The Institute of Plumbing South Africa (IOPSA) and the Plumbing Industry Registration Board (PIRB) conducts the Plumbing National Survey annually.

    The survey is sent out digitally through the main IOPSA and PIRB communication channels including emails, social media, the IOPSA website and Plumbing Africa online. The aim of the analysis is as follows: (i) to understand IOPSA’s market and the plumbing industry better, (ii) to track progress and assess whether there have been any significant changes from the previous survey, and (iii) to get guidance for future strategic direction. This analysis, reported and evaluated by Trade and Industrial Policy Strategies (TIPS)1 is an initial review of the responses and some preliminary findings from the Plumbing National Survey 2020.

    According to Statistics South Africa (StatsSA, 2019), there are approximately 126 000 self-identify as plumbers and apprentices operating in South Africa of these it is estimated that 10 000 – 15 000 are Qualified Plumbers. In total, 1024 respondents completed the Plumbing National Survey 2020 accounting for 0,8% of all plumbers and apprentices in the country or an estimated 6-8% of Qualified Plumbers. Compared to the previous survey, the 2020 analysis indicates that participation in the survey increased by an additional 85 respondents from 2019.

    Click here to view the full report

  • 31 Aug 2020 9:53 AM | Anonymous

    IOPSA and EmpowerBEE are pleased to announce that they have reached an agreement to partner on all Transformation and BBBEE matters. EmpowerBEE will assist IOPSA in managing its own internal BBBEE scorecard and at the same time will provide free training to members on all things BBBEE related. IOPSA members will have access to EmpowerBEE’s services at preferential rates.

    According to Brendan Reynolds, Executive Director of IOPSA “IOPSA is fully committed to the ideals of Transformation under the guidance of our Transformation Committee. This agreement is important both for IOPSA and for our members. BBBEE is a reality in South Africa and the fact is that we don’t have good knowledge and experience in the field. Partnering with EmpowerBEE fills an important gap both for IOPSA and our members.”

    We asked Morosha Govender the Verification Manager at EmpowerBEE a few questions regarding the partnership;

    Why is transformation important for SA?

    • Transformation in South Africa benefits us all.
    • South Africa is one of the world’s most unequal societies, the top 10% earn about six times as much as the bottom 10%. In South Africa, the top 10% earn 110 times more than the bottom 10%.
    • Transformation is imperative to ensure that it not only empowers individuals but also communities and employees
    • Transformation can improve the business environment, especially for small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs).
    • SMEs can be job generators and help create an environment for entrepreneurs to flourish
    • Transformation can create an environment that provides SMEs with opportunity and with support to participate in local supply chains

    Why did you choose to partner with IOPSA?

    • The values of IOPSA are consistent with the values of Empowerbee. Empowerbee is passionate about transformation strategies that benefit everyone in South Africa.
    • Our objectives are to create a BBBEE strategy that does not split the exciting economic pie, but increases the economic pie so that everyone in South Africa can benefit.

    How can Empowerbee/BBBEE compliance benefit IOPSA members?

    • Empowerbee can assist all members with compliance in terms of the BBBEE Legislation as a SANAS Accredited verification agency.

    Without BBBEE compliance:

    • Non-compliant businesses will find it difficult to grow or maintain their level of business success within South Africa.
    • On the other hand, private companies will also need to apply the Codes if they want to do business with any government enterprise – in order to tender for business, apply for licences , etc
    • Private companies are now starting to focus on other private companies (suppliers) with the best possible BEE score, which will count towards their Procurement recognition

    BBBEE compliance is not a tickbox exercise, applied strategically it can contribute to alleviating some of the ills faced by South Africans today

    • Small and medium sized business are critical in addressing unemployment in South Africa
    • The plumbing and related construction industries are critical in educating the next generation of artisans if it is to thrive in the future
    • We believe that this can give school leavers and the young unemployed the ability to contribute to society.

    IOPSA members should keep their ears open for upcoming BBBEE training and other initiatives that will benefit them.

  • 09 Jul 2020 2:12 PM | Anonymous


    DATE: 24 June 2020

    RE: NRCS issues a stern warning against the illegal trade practice of Geysers

    The National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications (NRCS) has been inundated with complaints on the sale and advertisement of second hand/refurbished geysers that do not comply with the applicable technical regulation (VC 9006) for hot water storage tanks for domestic use. In response, the Regulator conducted inspections and discovered a surge in the illegal selling of refurbished geysers.

    All geysers, new and modified, must conform with the safety and labeling requirements as outlined in the technical regulation before being offered for sale. It is therefore required of any business trading in these products to submit an application for approval of sale to the NRCS.

    Through this process, an applicant, importer or manufacturer of a regulated products is required to submit a sample of a product and a full test report acquired from an accredited testing facility for examination, testing or evaluation to determine compliance with the relevant compulsory specifications that are in force before the Letter of Authority Certificate (LOA) is issued.

    The Regulator assesses the evidence of conformity supplied by the applicant and grant approval when the mandatory requirements have been met. This is rigorous administrative and technical process which is followed to ensure that no LOA Certificates are issued to unscrupulous traders, manufactures or importers.

    All industry players, contractors, insurance companies and other interested parties are therefore warned not to manufacture or sell non-compliant second hand or refurbished geysers if not approved by the NRCS.

    Non-compliant products are hazardous and can cause harm to consumers. Similarly, faulty geysers can easily explode or cause an electric shock when used and are also not energy efficient.

    Research has indicated that geysers account for up to 39% of household electricity bills and it is hoped that the enforcement of the regulation by the NRCS will decrease the energy demand and bring much needed relief to consumers who are feeling the effects of the global Covid-19 pandemic.

    Suppliers and manufacturers shall ensure that the product’s energy consumption information is provided on the label and dealers must ensure that they affix the supplied label on the outside of displayed products and ensure that potential end-users are provided with product energy efficiency class and energy consumption data before purchase.

    The NRCS would also like to urge South African consumers to be alert and request sellers to produce proof of compliance (LOA) for products before they purchase them.

    Enforcing VC 9006 is in line with the NRCS’s mandate of protecting human health, safety, the environment and ensuring fair trade as well as rooting out non-compliant products in the market.

    For media interviews, please contact Mirriam Moswaane on 012 482 8826 / 083 364 2007 and for technical queries please contact Bongani Khanyile on 012 482 8886


  • 01 Jul 2020 1:35 PM | Anonymous

    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.


  • 28 May 2020 8:41 AM | Anonymous

    Dear Rory,

    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

    • A stagnant water system provides the ‘right’ conditions and a potential breeding ground for bacteria such as Legionella to proliferate due to several reasons.
      • Hot and cold water temperatures can stabilise into a range that favours Legionella growth (25–40°C)
      • The chlorine disinfectant added to the water supplied to a building can drop to ineffective levels
      • Stagnation can promote biofilms to develop in pipes and fixtures
    • Once established in a building’s plumbing, Legionella can be dispersed by aerosol generating activities, potentially exposing individuals through inhalation of aerosols

    Building water systems and devices impacted by stagnation

    Systems and devices that are prone to water stagnation during a lockdown include:

    • Toilets and showers
    • Sink faucets
    • Eye wash stations
    • Emergency showers
    • Irrigation and fire hoses
    • Cooling towers
    • Evaporative condensers
    • Decorative fountains
    • Hot tubs and spas
    • Misters, atomisers and humidifiers

    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 assessment


    Risk assessments are done to check system integrity and should inform measures to be followed to restore water quality to pre-COVID conditions.


    • Review water hygiene and Legionella risk assessment to reflect current usage and consider whether there is a heightened risk of Legionella as a result of the lockdown.
    • Risk assessment should be carried out by a trained and competent person.
    • Where risk is identified, appropriate steps (such as interim control measures such as flushing or water testing and/or treatments) should be determined and actioned in a timely manner.



    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.)

    • It may need to occur in segments due to facility size and water pressure issues
    • Flushing order also matters and professional assistants might be required to help understand plumbing configurations and flushing volumes

    ·        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

    • It is advisable to flush cold water first followed by hot water

    ·        Consider removing some plumbing components (aerators, showerheads, filters) that restrict flow rates but remember to clean and disinfect bypassed components

    • Flushing requirements are site-specific but run the water until a constant cold water temperature is maintained and disinfectant is detected   

    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.


    • Remove aerators, faucets, shower heads etc. and clean and disinfect with bleach before returning to service

    Shock disinfection


    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


    • Facility staff can send a high dose of disinfectant such as chlorine through the building or raise temperatures to kill the microbes
    • Disinfectants such as chlorine are dangerous to handle and can cause serious damage to plumbing system components if not properly used
    • In most cases, flushing buildings with water that has normal amounts of chlorine as supplied by the municipality is sufficient for cleaning the water system
    • Get professional assistance regarding methods and chemicals compatible with plumbing material
    • Thoroughly flush the system before and after shock-disinfection to improve results and remove disinfectants

    How do you know if your procedure has been effective and water is now safe for use?

    • Consider collecting water samples for Legionella and portability tests at a qualified and reputable laboratory
    • Verify potable water disinfectant residuals
      • Chlorine residuals should be monitored at the point of entry to verify sufficient disinfectant levels are provided to the building
      • Chlorine residuals should also be monitored at locations throughout the building to ensure flushing minimizes degradation of disinfectant residuals at the points of use
      • Free chlorine residuals should be monitored if the building is supplied with chlorinated water, and total chlorine residuals monitored if supplied with chloramine treated water

    Worker protection

    Ensure safety of workers during the flushing, cleaning and disinfection procedures

    • Workers should be competent and appropriately trained for the work they will be doing
    • Appropriate PPE e.g. gloves, N95 masks (fit-tested), and face shields, should be worn to prevent exposure from disinfection chemicals, and potentially contaminated splashes and aerosols
    • Avoid splashing and creating aerosols during flushing by using hoses to connect taps or shower head ends directly to drains, or by opening outlets slowly
    • Prevent exposure of workers to chemicals or high temperature water by using signage or access control
    • Social distancing protocols should be observed during risk assessments, 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: | Website:;


    CDC Guidance for Building Water Systems:  

    CDC Guidance for Building Water Systems: Ensure the safety of your building water system and devices after a prolonged shutdown (

    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.      

    Rhoads, William, and Caitlin Proctor. “Frequently Asked Questions - Building Water Safety in Response to COVID-19.” Center for Plumbing Safety - Purdue University, Purdue University,


  • 21 May 2020 9:38 AM | Anonymous


    Harscan has developed a range of products and solutions to assist with the regulated requirements in terms of sanitation and general safety.

    Click here to download the product list!

* Please note that all articles are dated and content was valid at the time of publication. 



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