Since 1926, IAPMO has protected the public’s health and safety through its codes and standards activities. There is no doubt the COVID-19 pandemic has made things a lot more challenging. It has affected everyone regardless of the sector of the industry.
Codes and standards is not immune to these challenges — no pun intended — and had to explore ways to continue with business as usual and keep pace with the industry — especially now, when the public is depending on codes and standards to keep it safe.
Codes provide the necessary minimum provisions needed for the public’s health and safety. Standards, equally important to codes, also provide the necessary requirements for products to function safely and as intended. Therefore, the development of these documents cannot be put on hold; rather, measures must be employed in the development process to allow IAPMO codes and standards to continue providing the same level of quality the industry has come to expect.
IAPMO has employed a remote work policy in which the codes and standards department is now faced with the challenge of producing quality documents without delays from home. This is more difficult when the team has been accustomed to getting information fast from the office next door and being able to quickly markup documents and provide comments.
Also, meetings are not being held in person, so the level of discussion and the risk of technical issues occurring become a factor. There is an IT department in the office, but remotely, we do not have such quick access. For internet issues, one must dial an 800 number and be put on hold for at least 20 minutes, just so a technician from your local provider can be there within two to three weeks.
Therefore, we had to rely on our expertise, experience and, most importantly, understand that we are all in this together. As they say: Prepare for the worst, pray for the best.
For example, on May 19, the Technical Committee meeting for the Uniform Solar, Hydronics and Geothermal Code (USHGC) was held via teleconference due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Typically, this meeting would take place in person at the IAPMO World Headquarters in Ontario, California. For in-person meetings, the time zone is not a factor.
However, since the meeting was held via teleconference, the meeting length and time zones needed to be considered. You want to be considerate of others and understand they have other meetings to attend — not to mention 2 p.m. in California is 5 p.m. on the East Coast.
When all was said and done, the Technical Committee did an excellent job reviewing more than 50 public comments. Because the meeting was not held in person, the level of engagement was not the same, and more time than usual was spent on each item. Therefore, an extra meeting was scheduled to complete the discussion. This was something for which staff was prepared for, so scheduling another meeting was already planned.
Access to code and standards
Because the challenges many in our industry face include financial uncertainty, IAPMO is temporarily providing free remote access to the standards most vital in dealing with such viral threats as COVID-19. IAPMO understands we are all working together to combat COVID-19; access to codes and standards should not represent a roadblock in that battle.
The free access standards and codes are providing support to the services essential to responding to COVID-19 and include performance and installation requirements for plumbing and mechanical systems. IAPMO has made these documents freely available to enhance the public understanding of how the proper functioning of plumbing and mechanical systems protects health. Free access to the IAPMO codes and standards may be obtained here.
Some of the documents included are:
- Uniform Plumbing Code (UPC), Study Guides, the Illustrative Training Manual and transmission prevention guidance;
- Uniform Mechanical Code (UMC), Study Guides, the Illustrative Training Manual and transmission prevention guidance;
- ASSE product standards and Professional Qualification standards; and
- IAPMO Industry Standards.
Of course, the internal communication between engineers and other staff has been impacted since everybody is working remotely. The internet bandwidth is not same for everyone, children can abruptly interrupt a conversation, printing ability is reduced, and most importantly, face-to-face communication is nonexistent.
However, IAPMO was prepared for such events, and the fact that each department has teleconference accounts as well as chat and sharing software allowed for a fairly seamless transition to working remotely.
During the Uniform Solar, Hydronics and Geothermal Code (USHGC) meeting, the Technical Committee asked if staff was together, in the same room, because it was not evident that everyone was at separate locations.
The staff liaison ran the meeting, another staff member ran the computers and employed the committee actions and amendments, a third staff member noted key discussion points that the staff liaison may have missed, and a fourth made sure the procedures were being followed.
This all occurred in the background, without interrupting the committee discussions. The entire staff needed to be in constant communication to make sure the meeting ran efficiently. Staff prepared for worst-case scenarios such as the main computer losing internet access, which is more likely to happen in residential areas. Internet access in the office is normally reliable and lost connections are very rare.
IAPMO is committed to safety; as it protects the health of the nation through plumbing and mechanical systems, IAPMO also acts to protect the public by providing additional resources on COVID-19. The following URL contains important documents directly supporting the plumbing and mechanical industry: https://www.iapmo.org/ibu/whats-new/coronavirus-resources.
Plumbing systems are possible breeding grounds of not only COVID-19, but other diseases such as Legionellosis and SARS. It is crucial that the UPC continues to be improved as the industry depends on it.
The UPC already takes steps to protect the health and safety of the public such as requiring sanitary systems to be vented directly to the outdoors and with Legionella prevention control. There are task groups to review potential Legionella prevention provisions in the UMC.
These are important issues that codes must address to keep pace with technology and to give the industry the confidence that IAPMO always puts health and safety as a priority. IAPMO understands it is not the only one employing measures to combat the COVID19 pandemic; it is crucial that everyone work together and understand the pandemic affects everyone differently.