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Technical Library: Plumbing

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Product liability and owner supplied products

There is no practical way for plumbers to test most plumbing products themselves. To ensure New Zealand has safe, healthy and durable homes plumbers must carry out all work to the New Zealand Building Code.
This means that products which plumbers install must also meet the Building Code.

This includes clause B-2 on durability and G12 on water supplies. It is up to the plumbers installing the products to ensure that they meet the Building Code.

This can be difficult as New Zealand has no mandatory requirement for product marking by independent testing such as the Watermark.

This becomes problematic for plumbers as they are expected to regulate which products are installed with little way of knowing which products meet NZ standards.

There is no practical way to test most plumbing products themselves. This is why it’s always best to install reputable brands which are sold at reputable plumbing merchants.

Then if the product is substandard or faulty the plumbing merchant and/or their suppliers can be liable.

Often, customers will choose to supply products which suit their budget. This may include second hand and/or imported products.

If the origin of the product is unknown best practice would be not to install the products. This will help to maintain high building standards for New Zealand.

If a customer would like the product which they have supplied installed the advice from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment is that the plumber get in writing that “….they [the customer] have chosen a particular part or type of product”.

It would also be advisable for plumbers to get in writing that they have explained to the customer in their professional opinion what they believe to be the best solution.

This process should only be used for external fittings which are easily accessible and unlikely to cause major damage if a fault arises (such as a replacement sink mixer).

Having a written document does not guarantee that the plumber won’t be held accountable for a substandard product.

Nor can it be an opt-out of responsibility for installing a clearly defective or poor quality product that is likely to fail and/or cause damage.

Likewise, a plumber must not install any product if they have any reason to believe that it could be harmful to health and safety.

A written document simply gives the installer a record to back them up should a fault arise with a product that they are unclear about the quality of.

In summary

Plumbers are responsible for meeting the building code in all of their work. Therefore, it is best practice to install reputable products sold from reputable plumbing merchants.

If this does not suit the customer the plumber should get in writing that the customer has chosen a particular part or type of product.

However, a written document cannot be used as an opt-out of responsibility to install clearly substandard or unsafe products.

This article is in reference to plumbing only and does not apply for gasfitting.

Contact the Plumbers, Gasfitters and Drainlayers Board

Phone: 0800 743 262, Email: registrar@pgdb.co.nz, Post: PO Box 10655, The Terrace, Wellington 6143
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