Issue 28 – June 2011
For over 20 years Dr Eric Palmer has helped to develop Standards for gas, piping and plumbing, fire sprinklers, wastewater, and domestic hot water. He has chaired several committees and participated in many other committees. Eric is now moving towards retirement and we acknowledge his huge contribution to Standards development. We asked him to discuss his extensive involvement in Standards.
Formalising codes into performance-based Standards
Eric began working on Standards when he was Technical Director at the Gas Association. He says, 'In 1992, gasfitters were made responsible for inspecting and certifying gas installations, and various industry codes were being upgraded and formalised into Standards. I became involved in the committee that wrote the first edition of NZS 5261 Gas installation.
'We needed to develop an explicit document to guide gasfitters and to explain what had to be done to get installations right. We reviewed the existing codes and asked questions such as, 'what is this clause trying to achieve?', and 'is it necessary to do it this way?' It was important to bear in mind the users of the Standard all the time and to keep the document user friendly.
'We developed NZS 5261 to provide gasfitters with surety about what they should be doing, to give consumers confidence that the installation is safe and will perform correctly, and to ensure consistency across the industry. NZS 5261 was the first performance-based Standard to provide a means of compliance with legislative requirements for safe gas installations.'
In 1998, the plumbing and drainage industry went through a similar process to the gas industry. Eric was by then working for Master Plumbers, Gasfitters and Drainlayers New Zealand (MPGD). He represented them on many committees that developed joint Australian/New Zealand Standards, including the AS/NZS 3500 plumbing and drainage series and the wastewater management Standards AS/NZS 1546 series and AS/NZS 1547.
Eric chaired the committees that developed NZS 5262 Gas appliance safety and NZS 5442 Specification for reticulated natural gas. He was also involved in developing many other Standards including NZS 5257 Gas industry – Audit protocol and the handbook SNZ HB 5257.2 Gas appliance safety – Audit workbook.
Ongoing commitment to standardisation
Eric received a Standards New Zealand Meritorious Service Award in 2003 and the citation below for his award demonstrates his breadth of knowledge and his commitment to standardisation:
Dr Eric Palmer is someone who invariably delivers on his commitments. As someone who holds a PhD in engineering as well as having 40 years practical experience, his input has been called upon for a variety of Standards. They include Standards for gas industry, piping, plumbing systems and products, fire sprinklers, and domestic hot water.
His knowledge in these areas is without equal and his meticulous attention to detail has made a great difference to the quality of the Standards he is involved with.
Another benefit of his presence on Standards New Zealand committees has been his calm, deliberative approach, which ensures that national debate takes place.
Standards work benefits everyone in the industry
Eric says Standards development is about putting the appropriate tools and knowledge in the hands of those people who carry out the work, and providing guidance on what they need to do to get it right.
'I encourage others to get involved,' says Eric. 'I enjoyed my time on Standards committees – it is fulfilling work with results that benefit everyone in the industry. It's so important that committees include people with the right expertise and experience, who can express the requirements clearly, in a way that the users of the Standard will understand.'
Eric recently retired from MPGD. Eric is planning to continue to work part time and intends to keep a watching brief on joint committees. Standards New Zealand sincerely appreciates his contribution to committees and looks forward to continued involvement in Standards development.