Much of the plumbing work in populated areas is regulated by government or quasi-government agencies due to the direct impact on the public's health, safety, and welfare.
Plumbing installation and repair work on residences and other buildings generally must be done according to plumbing and building codes to protect the inhabitants of the buildings and to ensure safe, quality construction to future buyers.
If permits are required for work, plumbing contractors typically secure them from the authorities on behalf of home or building owners. In the United Kingdom the professional body is the Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering (educational charity status) and it is true that the trade still remains virtually ungoverned; there are no systems in place to monitor or control the activities of unqualified plumbers or those home owners who choose to undertake installation and maintenance works themselves, despite the health and safety issues which arise from such works when they are undertaken incorrectly; see Health Aspects of Plumbing (HAP) published jointly by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Plumbing Council (WPC).
Valves are found in virtually every industrial process, including water and sewage processing, mining, power generation, processing of oil, gas and petroleum, food manufacturing, chemical and plastic manufacturing and many other fields. People in developed nations use valves in their daily lives, including plumbing valves, such as taps for tap water, gas control valves on cookers, small valves fitted to washing machines and dishwashers, safety devices fitted to hot water systems, and poppet valves in car engines. In nature there are valves, for example one-way valves in veins controlling the blood circulation, and heart valves controlling the flow of blood in the chambers of the heart and maintaining the correct pumping action. Valves may be operated manually, either by a handle, lever, pedal or wheel.
Valves may also be automatic, driven by changes in pressure, temperature, or flow.
These changes may act upon a diaphragm or a piston which in turn activates the valve, examples of this type of valve found commonly are safety valves fitted to hot water systems or boilers. More complex control systems using valves requiring automatic control based on an external input (i.e., regulating flow through a pipe to a changing set point) require an actuator.