Health & Safety MAtters: Let’s get on with it!
The latest Health and Safety Executive (HSE) review of domestic gas safety is already proving to be a source of frustration, says Bob Towse, head of technical and safety at the HVCA.
No one is belittling the issue of gas safety, but do we really need another review? We went through a remarkably similar exercise in 2000 and delivered a perfectly decent set of gas regulations, which are presumably sitting on a shelf somewhere in the HSE. They should take them down, dust them off and re-present them to the Minister. Everything the industry wants is already in there and it will be an absolute tragedy if we start all over again with a clean sheet of paper.
The latest review is due to examine the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 along with the gas registration scheme and it will also carry out research to examine the scale of carbon monoxide poisoning associated with domestic gas appliances.
The HSE has promised to engage in 'extensive consultation' during this review and a second 'stakeholder forum' is due to take place in September with the findings published in late autumn 2006.
When health and safety minister Lord Hunt opened the first stakeholder meeting at the HSE's London headquarters last month, he pointed out that carbon monoxide poisoning kills between 20 and 30 people every year.
However, he added that any changes to the current arrangements should be 'proportionate and evidence-based'.
This is exactly right. All deaths are tragic but we must keep this issue in perspective and any more draconian measures that create greater liabilities for contractors could hardly be described as 'proportionate'.
The future role of CORGI is a big worry in this regard. The HSE has stated that its role is enforcing workplace safety so it no longer wants the responsibility of managing CORGI.
The HVCA takes gas safety very seriously, which is why we challenge CORGI when we feel tit is doing the wrong thing.
The gas work notification scheme launched last year is a case in point. The entire burden falls back on to registered installers, who have to pick up the extra costs of notifying CORGI about any appliance they install. This pushes their costs up and plays into the hands of the Black Market and the dreaded cowboy.
This is another case of a measure failing to tackle the biggest threat to gas safety: The unregistered, untrained contractor. If the review is worth anything, it will make this issue a key focus and revisit the solutions we suggested six years ago.
For more information contact Bob Towse on 020 7313 4928 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
1 May 2006