Greg is the Director Business Excellence at the Water Services Association of Australia (WSAA). He has been with the Association for just over 6 years with oversight of all programs related to enhancing the business delivery to customers including asset management, digital, people and capability. Prior to working at WSAA, Greg worked for South East Water in Melbourne for over 13 years, and has a background in operations, management and strategic planning.
A key aspect of the work at WSAA is industry collaboration to develop clear guidance documents and codes, along with being a nominating organisation for development of standards relevant to the water sector. We use these documents to drive consistency and innovation in the industry and ensure the longevity and safety of installed products.
Standards Australia (SA): How long have you been involved in standards development?
Greg Ryan (GR): I have only been directly involved in standards development since starting at WSAA, so just over six years now.
SA: Is there a particular project or standard that sticks out to you?
GR: The key project that sticks out for me is the development of a national standard on products suitable for toilet flushing. It doesn’t sound very glamorous, however, the project has been very rewarding because it has involved developing a clear consensus among a diverse group of manufacturers, water utilities, consumer and manufacturer advocates and peak bodies. Through the process we have been able to achieve resolution on aspects which have been difficult to resolve overseas. I am quite pleased with how the Committee is able to work together to achieve an outcome that will provide greater benefit for the community.
SA: What is the role of standards in your sector?
GR: Standards apply to all aspects of a water utility’s operation including risk management, financial management and worker health and safety. They are particularly important for our infrastructure. The majority of our assets are buried within easements adjacent to customer properties. When they fail they can cause significant damage to property, inconvenience to customers and impact on the environment. Standards provide a level of confidence that installed products such as pipes, valves and meters are going to last and deliver the service required over their lifetime.
SA: With coronavirus affecting many industries across the country, what are some of the challenges facing the water and waste services sector?
GR: The initial challenge was ensuring the majority of staff were able to work effectively remotely, and that in doing so the workforce was not only safe but that their mental health was being looked after. Other challenges have been around social distancing and the need to undertake certain types of work such as lifting heavy objects or entering confined spaces, where the nature of the work means that social distancing can be impossible. This is combined with the current shortages of PPE such as face masks and hand sanitiser.
SA: What do you think is the future of standardisation?
GR: Standardisation provides a reliable means to confirm the durability and suitability of products for a given purpose. It is becoming more important for the water industry as we continue to lose local production capacity in areas such as steel manufacturing. This increases the amount of material sourced from overseas, placing more reliance on international standards. Hence a greater need for involvement in international mirror committees to support international standards development.
Separately, I see that there is an evolution coming in the way standards are developed, designed and presented. COVID-19 is expanding our view of what is possible through online collaboration, which hopefully will result in greater participation in standards development if there is less travel involved in meetings. But in the longer term the challenge is to make standards more relevant and easy to use for all. Some of the digital approaches are integrating images of a product or application with the relevant sections of particular standards. So that rather than reading the entirety of each standard it is possible to read only the relevant parts. This comes with challenges around creating context. However, it should hopefully increase engagement and the uptake of standards.