Construction Waterproofing Training WTF (Why this Fails?) – Part I

Thursday November 8, 2018

If the Electrical and Gas trades were approached in the same way as the Waterproofing Industry what kind of noise would we hear? A public outcry? Extended media attention? Political and government intervention?

The Australian Construction industry has some fairly tight compliance regulations when it comes to electrical and gas trades, and correctly so as these compliance measures keep the trades person safe, protect the built environment from fire and explosions, and ensure safe communities. To ensure this type of work complies along with all stakeholders involved, there is:

a)     A high level of training needed to install electrical and gas work

b)    A requirement of qualification needed to carry out electrical and gas work

c)     Only the utilisation of qualified employees by service providers in these fields

d)    Material being sourced by these trades that meet minimum quality and safety standards

This ensures the integrity of buildings have assurances of:

1.     Manufacturers that meet the minimum requirements before releasing anything to market

2.     Suppliers only sell product that complies

3.     Qualified and licensed trades carry out works with these products

4.     A reliable authorised program that trains and educates these trades

I’m no expert in the field of electrical and gas so can’t claim that this sector of the industry has got it 100% right, however as I watch it from afar I can certainly note that electrical and gas have got it a lot “more right” than the waterproofing sector has. I’ve had my say before about the approach to waterproofing in Australia and where it stands amongst the ecosystem of authorities (or lack of), suppliers, manufacturers, consultants, builders, designers and contractors. After almost 30 years of manufacturing waterproofing products, developing systems, training, selling, specifying, inspecting, assessing, testing, educating and researching, when I look at the current state of the Waterproofing Industry in this country I keep getting visions of that prophetic line from Forrest Gump “Stupid is as Stupid does”.

I’m no pessimist, in fact completely at the other end of scale with the optimism stakes, so I have no intention to paint a dark picture of the waterproofing industry, but a reality check is long overdue. Many key stakeholders need to pay attention as the industry is approaching a critical junction for what is happening out there and the overall approach.

The tip of a very ugly iceberg is starting to rear more than just it’s head. Accountability is slowly creeping into the industry, albeit resistance, but it is making a late overdue entry onto stage and will eventually stand front and centre of the waterproofing industry – thankfully. Governance and regulation is in for a big shake up as the stupidity of our approach to waterproofing in construction can’t be sustained.

For this blog, I want to stay away from what should be happening with authorities, governance, standards, regulations, specifiers, compliance and building professionals, and instead focus on the link between manufacturers and contractors, better known as applicators.

Stupid is as Stupid does”  –  we have no national uniform approach to training in the Australian waterproofing industry and this impacts the waterproofing profession being taken seriously compared to a professional trade like electricians. Anybody believing otherwise is delusional, and anyone claiming Certificate III Training for Waterproofing in Construction is the “training answer” I can guarantee has never spent time on building sites around this country.

As waterproofing is not officially a trade in Australia like plumbing, tiling, electrical etc. the critical mass of real training has primarily been left up to manufacturers. Is that right or wrong? Well let me put this to you – would the industry be comfortable for electrical product manufacturers to train electricians how to be electricians? The obvious answer is it would be unacceptable, but as an Australian manufacturer of waterproofing systems it has become a necessity (often through desperation) due to the loose fragmented direction of construction towards waterproofing.

Right or wrong, this is now a big part of the manufacturer’s role until there is change from the top. I’m fairly sure if you took a close look into insurance claims, that for every 1 electrical issue that is causing serious damage to homes/buildings, there would be 100’s plus more on the waterproofing side. If I’m wrong, please give me the data, always up for being wrong on this one.

With no central governance or authority in the construction industry guiding a national approach to training methodology and a waterproofing curriculum of what is being trained it basically leaves manufacturers holding the training fort  on waterproofing training.

So this begs the questions: How are we training? Who are we training? What are we training? ……..join me for Part II as I explore this further.