The Water Jetting Association is 40 years old in October 2020 – marking a milestone in a journey that has seen it work closely with contractors and manufacturers help drive up safety and operational performance across the drainage industry.

The WJA, the UK’s trade association for the water jetting industry, was founded by a group of 21 contractors at a meeting at the Metropole Hotel at Birmingham Airport on 9th October 1980.

Since then, it has gone on to build an international reputation for promoting water jetting standards, not least through the development of its two codes of practice, one of them the ‘Red Code’ for safe working and use of water jetting in drains and sewers.

WJA Director David Kennedy said: “The WJA was founded specifically to promote safety across the water jetting industry and that purpose is still central to our mission today.

“Over the last four decades, our members – contractors, equipment suppliers and trainers, plus many others – have played vital roles in improving safety and promoting change for the better in the drainage industry, and we’d invite others to join us in this valuable work.”

The WJA was first called the Association of High Pressure Water Jetting Contractors. The change to the WJA came later, to clarify what had always been the case, that the association was a broad church, where all expertise and opinion was considered, said Kennedy.

The association was set up with the encouragement of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). In the 1970s, it wanted consistent safety standards to be developed across a fast-growing water jetting industry.

Now the HSE uses the WJA’s codes of practice as a clear reference as to what is correct water jetting practice. The codes are respected because the WJA has continuously updated them, so they remain relevant to the industries they cover.

The WJA is also the biggest provider of water jetting training to the drainage industry. This is beneficial to both drainage contractors and operatives, says WJA-approved water jetting instructor Mike Pirrie, a member of the association’s training and safety committee.

“WJA courses give contractors a firm benchmark upon which they can develop their in-house training and skills development, and give operatives a recognised qualification, accredited by City & Guilds.

“As with safety, WJA training is continuously reviewed and updated. Since 2019, we’ve required trainees to complete the WJA Safety Awareness course and at least one practical module consistent with their work, such as Drain and Sewer Cleaning, Surface Preparation, Tube and Pipe Cleaning or Hydro-Demolition, before they get their water jetting card.

“This makes sense because practical, hands-on experience under controlled conditions where good practice can be demonstrated and practiced is invaluable. I’m pleased to say that contractors have embraced this approach and see its worth.”

The WJA has also played a critical role in providing a forum for discussing and finding ways through challenging technical issues in the drainage industry, including the practice of re-ending jetting hoses, said Mike Pirrie.

“This ensures technical solutions can come from within the industry and we can move forward together. This consistency is also supported with the many technical and training aides the WJA continues to develop, including advice sheets and educational videos.”

In 2019, the WJA also issued new Water Jetting Injury Management Guidelines, based on research it commissioned from a team of eminent NHS trauma physicians.

The research findings have been published in the European Journal of Trauma and Emergency Surgery, so the good practice can be shared with medical specialists throughout the world.

For the first time, the guidelines include an algorithm for effective injury response, from giving first aid to hospital treatment, which promises to save lives and reduce the long-term impact of injury.

David Kennedy said: “The WJA remains as relevant as ever, not least in the drainage and water utilities industries. Technical innovations, such as water recycling, more powerful pumps and jetting head design, present new challenges all the time.”