When Drainlayers Attack

I am part of the Plumbers, Gasfitters, and Drainlayers Board, Stakeholder Liaison Group. The group was formed to provide regular opportunity for the PGD Board to receive feedback on proposed and implemented initiatives, issues/areas of concern to the Board and the Stakeholder Liaison Group, and any other issues facing the industry or of relevance to the industry. The group is made up of various people associated with the industry and we meet four times a year.

At our latest meeting we were updated on some recent disciplinary cases.

The PGD Board get around 300 enquiries / complaints a year. The three most common reasons for the complaints are poor workmanship, authorisation (lack thereof), and billing and contractual issues. Each enquirer / complainer gets asked a whole lot of who, what, where, and when type of questions by the Board at the initial contact. They then get presented at a triage meeting, all of which help filter out the complaints the Board will take further with the practitioner involved.

Generally, one third of the 300 get investigated and mostly the offenders will receive a friendly reminder letter from the Board reminding them of their responsibilities and best practice. Some practitioners get their backs up on receiving the letter and let it be known to the Board, however, most accept it with good grace and endeavour to change their ways and not do it again.

Around ten percent of all the complaints received get investigated further and end up in front of the board facing disciplinary action.

One disciplinary case we were updated on, and I was surprised about, was a practitioner who was charged with “improper conduct while performing drainlaying work, rendering them unfit to be registered or licensed”. The practitioner had attacked a council inspector. A police assault charge had been laid and the drainlayer received diversion with community work as his sentence.

The Council also laid a complaint to the PGD Board – and rightly so. The practitioner had physically pushed the inspector against a fence and according to the inspector slapped him on the face. I am sure there are a bunch of you reading this, thinking yip, who have rolled up your sleeves out of frustration, who have been ready for a fight with an inspector, for not passing your work for whatever reason.

Talking to a council inspector in the stakeholder liaison group, he said one of his inspectors recently had a shovel thrown at him, and another got chased back to his vehicle and slammed against the vehicle door. It’s just not on, it’s definitely improper conduct, and the Board is actively encouraging Councils to report these types of incidents. The drainlayer involved in the case had all his licenses suspended for three months and has been ordered by the district court to pay costs of around $7,000.

I guess my message in this, where we are all being asked to be kind to each other, while we manoeuvre our way through COVID-19, is behave yourself, conduct yourself in a proper way, and be kind to Council Inspectors.

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