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As we write this column, COVID lockdowns across the country are still causing uncertainty and challenges for business.
Victoria joins New South Wales in an extended lockdown, with ACT, South Australia and Queensland all under restrictions as well.
Despite this, building and construction across Australia largely remains open for business. Unfortunately, some sectors are not able to work or do so under onerous conditions, especially in servicing non-emergency work in owner occupied premises. It is a privileged position to be in, not by fortune but by the hard work done by Master Plumbers and other industry associations coming together to develop COVIDsafe work practices and enforcing these on work sites.
What has emerged through COVID, built on understanding developed internationally during the 2002-04 SARS outbreaks (COVID-19 is a strain of SARS coronaviruses), is the critical role that plumbing plays in prevention and detection of the virus.
The World Health Organization attributed the SARS outbreak in Hong Kong in the early-2000’s to ineffective trap seals in an apartment complex, which allowed the virus to spread through the building’s plumbing system.
More recently, the science of COVID transmission has pointed more clearly to aerosol distribution with suspended droplets, in addition to larger droplets spread through sneezing, speaking and the like, which fall under gravity more quickly to contaminate surfaces. Plumbers have been sounding alarms on this for some time and understand the significant implications for future HVAC design, installation and maintenance. Provision of potable water and safe disposal of waste remain critical public health measures, not just in relation to COVID, but in allowing our society to function and health services to be delivered during pandemics.
And as we report in this edition of your magazine, wastewater testing is the ‘canary in the coalmine’ when it comes to early detection of COVID amongst populations. It is proving to be an extremely valuable tool, allowing authorities to focus testing and tracing on geographic areas often before people even know they might be infectious.
While plumbers may not have the current media profile of epidemiologists, they certainly remain in the public eye when it comes to safeguarding public health.
Hydrogen’s use as an energy source continues to be the subject of many research and development trials around the world, with more than a dozen pilot projects in Australia alone. A 2019 study by ACIL Allen Consulting estimates that hydrogen exports alone could contribute $3.6 billion per annum to the economy and generate up to 10,000 jobs by 2030. This is projected to grow to $10 billion of exports per annum by 2040, and 16,000 new jobs, with most of these jobs in regional areas.
In the Australian domestic market, there are many opportunities to use hydrogen as an alternative to natural gas with the potential to completely replace natural gas for domestic cooking, heating, and hot water. In the longer term, hydrogen can be used in high temperature manufacturing processes such as in steel, fertilizer, and cement production that currently have high carbon dioxide emissions.
Master Plumbers and our key partner PICAC remain at the forefront of helping to shape the Hydrogen industry and ensure all scenarios are considered. With emerging technologies like this, the best decisions can only be made when you have options to choose from!
Scott Dowsett – President, Master Plumbers
Peter Daly – CEO, Master Plumbers