Bob Kerr of the Gas Safe Register reminds readers of the legal requirements associated with gas installation and maintenance, and highlights contractor management in the housing sector as vitally important to ensuring registration, competence and monitoring
Among the array of tasks and duties that sit with those responsible for the management and maintenance of housing, there are few as important as ensuring all gas appliances and installations are safe, serviced, and compliant with all relevant regulations.
As a result of the current systems and processes in place, and improvements in technology, the number of high-profile incidents involving gas in homes remains relatively small (the figure generally declining further over time). Nonetheless, the impact of gas-related incidents – fires, explosions, carbon monoxide exposure, and similar – can be catastrophic, and as such, no-one can afford to be complacent.
The gas industry is highly-regulated, with comprehensive and well-established systems and processes in place to support and protect both those working directly with gas, as well as the wider general public. These regulations ensure duties are clear, and that compliance is straightforward to evidence.
There is one overarching piece of legislation that governs all activity in the industry: The Gas Safety (Installation and Use) (Amendment) Regulations. (GSIUR). These regulations have been in place for many years, with the latest amendment coming into force on 6 April 2018.
This Approved Code of Practice gives advice and guidance on how to meet the requirements of GSIUR and the amending regulations. This guidance is for anyone that may have a duty under the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998, including those who install, service, maintain and/or repair gas appliances and other gas fittings. Through abiding by these regulations, the UK has been able to continuously improve the standard of its workmanship, helping to ensure consumers are kept safe in their homes.
The most important part of safety assurance is the basic requirement within regulations to ensure appliances are regularly inspected and maintained. Appliances that undergo regular inspection and maintenance are not only more efficient, they are ultimately safer than those left unserviced.
Having regular maintenance schedules in place in homes is a proactive way of ensuring appliance and consumer safety protocols are adhered to, helping to keep consumers safe and provide them with peace of mind. This role is undertaken by the Gas Safe Register – the official gas safety registration body for the UK.
The Gas Safe Register ensures independent businesses and tradesmen that deal with gas appliances and/or installations adhere to the official regulations and standards. Much of our focus is on ensuring that those undertaking gas work are applying the proper competencies they claim to hold, and therefore that the work they are carrying out is to the required standards.
Many housing associations and other similar organisations do not undertake this work themselves, meaning we often also seek assurances that organisations have effective systems and processes in place for contractor management. Desk-based audits of processes and procedures are an essential component of our work. This includes auditing those managing large quantities of housing stock, as well as assessing businesses own internal competency assessment frameworks.
Another key part of our role is to inspect gas work. The nature of our risk-based inspection algorithm means we target our resources towards those who present a higher risk. High risk cases are instances where, for example, we have evidence of prior work from an engineer or business failing to be to meet the correct standards, or a tradesman or organisation is newly registered, and therefore we do not yet have evidence to demonstrate that they are working safely.
The Gas Safe Register also provides support to registered engineers in the form of a technical helpline. Operated by highly experienced staff (who are themselves registered engineers), the helpline is there to support registered engineers in their decision-making.
The Gas Safe Register has a robust regulatory and legislative framework, along with clear processes, appropriate support, and a culture of continuous improvement when it comes to gas safety — this is what we call The Gas Safe Way. Our ambition is that any work carried out The Gas Safe Way is automatically viewed as safe, competent and trusted, both by those working in the industry and the general public.
Bob Kerr is gas services director at the Gas Safe Register