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Enforcement Review 2010 for Gas safety

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

  1. The purpose of the Enforcement Review 2010 is to examine the current investigation and enforcement activities undertaken by those parties currently involved in the enforcement of gas safety legislation. The Review also looks at how any potential changes to the existing arrangements will enhance gas safety.The purpose of the Review is to identify potential options for consideration by HSE.

    The Review commenced in October 2009 with a final report presented to HSE in June 2010.

  2. The Review is the latest in a series of reviews undertaken in the industry in the last 16 years which have driven significant change in systems and processes.The changes arising from these reviews include the remodeling of the certificated competence framework with the creation of the National Accredited Certification Scheme for Individual Gas Fitting Operatives (ACS) system and, in 2008, the change in the contract environment to provide a formal contract to operate the mandatory registration scheme for those working on gas (as defined in the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations (GSIUR)).
  3. A number of factors should be taken into account when setting the context for the Review:
    1. The creation of the Gas Safe Register, which has a much more clearly defined remit, is consumer-focused in its communications, is not involved in associated commercial activity, has made clear commitments to consultation with industry and has a clearer inspection and investigation process.
    2. The broader economic climate, which has brought greater pressures to bear on those operating in the sector and which has resulted in an increase in the calls for systems and processes which better serve the needs of the industry as a whole

    These factors, amongst others, have contributed to a change in the tone of discussions within industry with evidence of an increased appetite for action and for the Review to result in actual change.

  4. There are a number of agencies involved in managing or delivering elements of the enforcement system, some with formal responsibilities and powers of prosecution and some whose role is to support enforcement of the gas regulations.There are also a number of agencies responsible for enforcing non-gas regulations but which can crossover with the gas agencies.
  5. Consultation and engagement with relevant stakeholders has been central to identifying the topics for review, as a source of evidence and as a resource against which to validate potential solutions to be put forward for consideration.The stakeholder groups were, to a degree, self-selecting from a pool of those operating in the industry and included large and small installation and servicing businesses, manufacturers, retailers, representatives of trade associations and other trade bodies.

    In addition, consumers were also approached for their views on gas safety.

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Methods employed included face to face workshops and online questionnaires.

  1. Key findings from the survey of industry and stakeholders included:
    1. The Gas Safe Register, the HSE and Gas Safe registered businesses were seen as the principal agencies which have a role to play in enforcement of gas safety within the current regulations. This was closely followed by retailers and manufacturers of gas carrying parts and appliances.
    2. There was also evidence of a lack of understanding of the specific roles played by the key agencies, even amongst those directly employed in the industry.
    3. The current gas safety enforcement is not seen to be particularly effective, although the areas where it is seen to be strongest are in providing clear guidance to engineers and in encouraging improved work from engineers.
    4. It was not seen to be particularly effective at delivering proportionate fines, acting as a deterrent or at protecting consumers.
    5. Prison sentences, fines, and Prohibition Notices are seen as effective enforcement current activities.
    6. Key improvements which could be made included more working with industry, greater fines or sanctions, simplified processes and improved communication with all those involved in enforcement.
    7. Where illegal gas work is suspected investigation of the engineer and/or work and automatic referral of information to Gas Safe Register are seen as the most effective immediate actions.
    8. Several topics were raised repeatedly by trade respondents as being important issues when discussing enforcement. The most frequently mentioned was the sale of gas carrying parts or appliances to non-registered gas fitters.
  2. Key findings from the consumer survey included:
    1. Consumers see government, or government approved agencies such as Gas Safe Register or Trading Standards, as being responsible for enforcement. They also see Gas Safe registered engineers as having a role. There is also reasonable understanding of where to go to find out more information.
    2. The expectation from consumers is that any reports of illegal gas work would be passed to gas Safe Register for investigation and potential further action including Prohibition Notices and fines.
    3. Consumers did not support the idea of consumers being fined if they have used an illegal gas fitter.
  3. Preventative action is seen by many respondents as an essential component in any enforcement regime. Within this two significant threads were developed:
    1. Managing the sales of gas carrying appliances and parts
    2. Improved flow of information, particular to consumers

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  1. Potentially managing, or limiting the sales of gas carrying parts or appliances, is a topic which the industry has examined previously and was the most frequently mentioned topic in the trade survey.Discussions around this topic often tend to centre on gas boilers (and parts) without looking at other gas appliances such as fires and cookers. These items not only make up a majority of the appliances sold but are often also sold in a different retail environment than boilers. These environments are often more tailored towards the aesthetic considerations of consumers than treating them as potentially dangerous appliances (if fitted incorrectly).

    The majority of trade respondents were primarily concerned about the sale of boilers to consumers through retail channels and were not focused on these other appliances.

  2. Previous reviews, including the Frontline report (2006), have looked at this topic, and many of the issues raised covered the same ground, including discussions regarding voluntary or mandatory schemes to manage sales. Although many respondents were aware that this topic had already been examined it remained the most passionately debated area in the feedback forums.
  3. The notion of a mandatory restriction of sales was considered and discussed at length by respondents. There was little consensus on how any mandatory scheme would operate e.g. how wide would the restrictions be.There was also recognition that the legal hurdles identified in 2006 remain in place and that there is little evidence of the significant political support that any changes in legislation would require.

    Consequently there was little support to pursue the option in greater detail at this time.

12.Voluntary schemes, which were examined but rejected in 2006, were also re- evaluated by respondents and received greater support, albeit with some caveats.

This more open attitude may be, in part, because of the broader changes in the industry since 2006 or may be more closely related to policies adopted unilaterally by some manufacturers and merchants.

Rather than seeking a single voluntary scheme respondents discussed something akin to a „code of conduct‟ and the incremental implementation of differing elements in forms that their own businesses could support.

These elements included:

a. A voluntary retail model whereby identification is requested of anyone purchasing a gas carrying part. This model may or may not actually stop a sale on non-production but has value on a simple awareness raising level.

Similarly, this model may or not include a mechanism whereby recorded sales or purchasers information is passed to the relevant enforcement body.

These simple elements were seen to be simple to support and potentially cost-free, at least at the most basic level of implementation and, although of limited value in isolation, as a useful first step for industry.

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  1. Links to extended appliance warranty. Schemes already operate where manufacturers link the provision of extended warranties to the „logging‟ of the sale and the installation by a registered engineer. Note – these are over and above the statutory warranties which already exist.This approach not only offers benefits to the registered engineer but also to the customer. It also affords the manufacturer the opportunity to gather richer marketing detail on any given installation.
  2. Limits on collection or delivery of appliances. Under this option anyone would be able to make a purchase but collection would be limited to those who could demonstrate registration. This option therefore places no restrictions on consumer choice and also strengthens the link to the registered engineer.
  3. Gathering information at point of sale. Not all of the areas discussed related to limiting sales, many respondents also saw significant value in simply asking for information on where the appliance was to be installed. Respondents were quick to see parallels to the TV licensing model, while acknowledging the advice that creating a mandatory scheme of this kind would be extremely unlikely.

Concerns were raised by some respondents regarding potential legal issues and breaches of competition legislation and clarity would need to be sought by any industry group considering adopting a voluntary policy, particularly if they are acting with others. However, there is guidance available from Office for Fair Trading specifically for trade associations which could provide comfort.

If any of these solutions were to be pursued they would require active support from industry. Whereas in 2006 this was seen as unlikely the situation in 2010 may be different. It would be up to industry to decide on the success or failure of this kind of model.

  1. The safe installation of appliances by those qualified and competent to do so was seen as pivotal (and supported by evidence from Gas Safe Register investigations). Respondents identified a number of potential improvements which could be made to systems and processes which could potentially enhance the enforcement regime:
    1. Education of consumers through better display of safety information
    2. Better information-gathering on installations
  2. Respondents agreed that the most effective way to reach consumers was when they were at the point of purchase (either in-store or online). This means due consideration should be given to:
    1. Better in-store information. The development of standardized information to display alongside any gas-carrying parts indicating the relevant regulations.
    2. Better on-line information. The development of click-through screens or standard headers and footers to be displayed when proceeding to the online check-out with gas-carrying appliances or parts
    3. Information on product packaging. Larger DIY stores mainly display products in their packaging and prominent and clearly worded messaging e.g. „this appliance should only be installed by a person qualified and competent to do so under the Gas Safe Installation and Use Regulations‟ would act as a

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reminder. A standard message, if adopted by all manufacturers, would also ensure no individual manufacturer is placed at a disadvantage.

  1. Information in product documentation. Development of standard messages as above for product documentation. This idea was examined in the 2006 review and is put forward for further consideration.
  2. On products. Two sub-options within this theme were examined and considered:
    1. Removable access tape across controls which would be in place until commissioning or first use.
    2. Permanent addition to control panels e.g. most appliances have more detailed product control instructions on the appliance, often hidden by a flap.

15.In addition to these message-based solutions respondents also examined the possibility of using advancing technology to limit use or access to appliances by unregistered gas fitters. Although there is technical scope to introduce these „kill switches‟ advice from manufacturers suggests it is not currently economical to do so while there is no perceived market demand.

  1. A number of respondents also offered solutions based on extending the current notification schemes. Currently notification operates purely to satisfy Building Regulations but extending this requirement to include other appliances, and to bring in servicing as well as commissioning would not only limit opportunities for illegal working but would create a much larger information pool from which to target other illegal or dangerous work.
  2. Although there was significant appetite for increased preventative activity there was also recognition of the continuing importance of investigating offences and applying penalties. As these activities take place after an offence has occurred they were generally described as „reactive‟ enforcement activity.
  3. Even within the immediate industry there remains a lack of understanding of the roles played by different agencies, the penalties available and how they are calculated and applied.
  4. Recent research from the Gas Safe Register has contributed to a more accurate picture of the size of the illegal market and who is carrying out the work. The Register is also building up a more detailed picture of the number and type of defects found during investigations and, consequently, the risks posed by illegal gas work.It has been calculated that there are approximately 7500 „hard core‟ illegal gas workers operating in the UK, carrying out just under 250,000 gas jobs each year.
    Gas Safe Register inspectors were called into investigate 383 complaints about illegal gas work in the first nine months of operation (April – Dec 2009) and found over 2000 defects from those reports. This equates to an average of five gas faults per site investigated.
  5. When the investigations process was discussed in the feedback forums it became clear from comments that there was a desire to see improvements in the process, but not a complete rethinking of the approach.
  6. Amongst the areas identified where relatively small improvements or change in focus were seen to offer potential benefits were:

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  1. Better coordination and integration of activity between agencies, particularly Gas Safe Register and HSE.Specific applications of this approach suggested by respondents included „joint action teams‟ working to target specific areas or sectors for a defined period of time. High-profile bursts of activity, supported by communications activity, were seen to be potentially extremely effective.

    A number of pilot schemes have already taken place which suggests this approach is deliverable.

    There was also significant support from respondents to the idea of seconding HSE representatives into other agencies e.g. Gas Safe Register to act as a central point of review and coordination to the local offices. An „embedded‟ representative was seen to be potentially useful in breaking down institutional barriers and supporting more consistent decision-making on whether a case should be prosecuted.

  2. Better coordination of data, relating to prosecutions. Currently the different agencies involved in a prosecution hold separate case files and information and there is seen to be significant overlap and inefficiency in how the information is used. This lack of coordination is seen to be a significant factor in the length of time it can take to bring a prosecution.Respondents identified significant potential in the development of a single case file, coordinated by a single body, which would include all of the elements required by all agencies to assess the case for prosecution e.g. investigation reports, receipts/other evidence, voluntary witness statements etc.

    Sharing of this data in appropriate and open formats was seen as having significant potential to minimise duplication, particularly of investigative effort, and shorten the time taken to prepare a case.

    A single case file, as a comprehensive summary of all the relevant information, was also seen as a logical place to include other background information which may be useful to prosecuting bodies and the judiciary. This could include standard information on costs of Gas Safe registration, average costs of installations, fines previously levied in similar cases.

    This information was also seen to have benefits in creating a more consistent approach across different parts of the country.

  3. Better coordination of reporting data and tools. Respondents expressed a strong desire to see existing tools for reporting unsafe or illegal gas work simplified – with particular concern expressed about the purpose and use of RIDDOR.A simplified „one shop stop‟ single reporting form, sent to a single reporting body who would triage the report and assess what, if any, action should be taken was also seen a potentially useful and easy to support.
  4. Better communication and feedback. There is currently a perception amongst engineers that reports of illegal gas work disappear into a „black hole‟ with no feedback given on the status of an investigation. This was seen to damage

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the credibility of the process and discourage further reporting. A number of solutions were identified for consideration:

i. Creation/reinstatement of an anonymous reporting telephone line

ii. „Traffic light‟ report status on whether a case is being taken forward and why

iii. A report generating a unique case reference number which could be quoted to get an update.

  1. The penalties imposed following a successful prosecution remains a contentious topic for many respondents, with continuing frustration at the levels of the fines and sentences handed out in many cases:A summary of HSE prosecutions of illegal gas fitters during 2009 is as follows: Total number of prosecutions = 14
    Number of Guilty-Fines = 12
    The total fine amount = £18,900 (an average of £1,350)

    Total costs awarded = £41,907 (an average of £2,933) Number of Conditional Discharge = 1 (for 2 year period) Number of Custodial Sentences = 1 (for 52 weeks) Number of Community Service Orders = 0

    Although the average fine awarded was £1,350, this included only one penalty of £5000. The remaining 13 cases averaged just over £1000 (with costs of just over £1600).

    The average time taken from initial offence (e.g. investigation by the registration body or by HSE with an enforcement notice) to prosecution in court was 18 months for prosecutions completed in court during 2009.

    (Shortest = 6 months; Longest = 34 months)

  2. The view from many respondents was that current penalties were insufficient. The majority of respondents were unaware that there have been changes through the Health & Safety at Work etc. Act and the Health & Safety (offences) act 2008 to increase the levels of the fines available to the judiciary.A number of activities were put forward by respondents as potential solutions and ways of addressing this perception:
    1. Provide better information to judiciary to support decision making and illustrate the „true costs‟ of illegal working (see 21.b)
    2. Highlight the existing powers. There was limited knowledge of the range of penalties available. Highlighting the potential maximum penalties was seen to be a deterrent. There was also limited knowledge of some of the non-financial penalties available such as seizure of assets.
    3. Increased publicity around prosecutions. Several comments were received about prosecution reports appearing in trade publications but rarely in local or national publications. More focus to be given to „selling in‟ of prosecution stories to consumer media as a standard part of the prosecution process.

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24. Engagement with consumers was seen by respondents as a vital component of any successful enforcement regime.

In addition to calls for more information to be made available to, or targeted at, consumers at various stages in the process (see 12 – 14) there were also calls from industry to see consumers take more responsibility.

A number of respondents from within industry expressed frustration with consumers they see as increasingly price-sensitive to the exclusion of almost any other factor and who were choosing to undertake DIY or engage unqualified or incompetent engineers to carry out gas work – placing themselves at increased risk.

This industry view of consumers runs counter to the views expressed by consumers. In the consumer survey (See 7) consumers were clear in their view that everyone (implicitly including themselves) has a role to play in gas safety.

Although there were calls from industry to see consumers potentially prosecuted if they knowingly commissioned unsafe gas work this option was firmly rejected by consumers suggesting it would meet considerable resistance if pursued.

Calls from a number of respondents to link the cancelation of home insurance policies to evidence of illegally fitted or maintained gas appliances were initially viewed positively but initial consultation suggests any scheme of this kind to would impractical and difficult to administer.

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1. BACKGROUND, CONTEXT AND RESEARCH

Capita Gas Registration and Ancillary Services/ Gas Safe Register – Enforcement Review: Terms of Reference

Aim

During the review of gas safety undertaken by Frontline for the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) it became evident that the Gas & Associated Industries had concerns over the enforcement actions undertaken in the current gas safety regime.

As part of the procurement process for establishing the new registration scheme it was agreed that the tender for the new registration service provider would undertake a review of the enforcement of gas safety as part of the contract.

As agreed in the Service Concession Agreement, Appendix A, Capita Gas Registration and Ancillary Services (CGRAS) is to deliver an evidence based report to HSE containing proposals for improvements to the current enforcement regime, which may be developed and implemented for the improvement of gas safety for the purposes of the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 (and any reference in these Terms of Reference to „gas safety‟ is to be construed accordingly).

Objective

The current gas safety enforcement is mainly undertaken through formal actions by HSE or registration sanctions applied through the gas registration scheme. The review will provide an opportunity to look at, and think laterally about the current provisions for the enforcement of gas safety. It will take into account gas industry feedback, innovative ideas, suggestions and information from other related industry enforcement and best practice areas. Through a process of consultation with interested parties and regular feedback on the progression of the review a small number of defined options will be presented back to HSE in June 2010.

The review will:

Identify the current investigation and enforcement activities by those parties currently involved in the enforcement of gas safety legislation

Engage with all those involved in or affected by the current arrangements to assist in identifying any potential changes to enhance the gas safety regime.

Identify how any proposals or changes made to the current arrangements would enhance the gas safety regime.

Present practicable options along with an analysis of the benefits and implications of each option for regulators, industry and wider gas safety.

The review will be commenced in late October 2009 with a planned delivery date of options by the end of June 2010.

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1 Introduction and background 1.1 The current environment

The 2010 Enforcement Review, coordinated by Gas Safe Register for HSE, recognizes and builds on the areas for discussion identified in the earlier reports and reviews that have helped to define and reshape the gas industry in the recent years.

In the period since the Touche Ross Report (1996), the subsequent HSE review (2000) and the Review of Domestic Gas Safety by Frontline (2006) the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) has implemented significant change to the structures and processes in place to support those organisations tasked with delivering improvements in gas safety and the enforcement of the gas safety regulations.

The changes arising from these reviews include the remodeling of the certificated competence framework with the creation of the National Accredited Certification Scheme for Individual Gas Fitting Operatives (ACS) system and, in 2008, the change in the contract environment to provide a formal contract to operate the mandatory registration scheme for those working on gas (as defined in the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations (GSIUR).

The award of the contract to a new provider, and the subsequent creation of the Gas Safe Register brand (which is owned by HSE and operated on their behalf by the registrar), provided new focus for the industry and has also been one of the contributing factors to a shift in tone towards a more engaged industry which has shown a willingness to openly debate issues in a realistic and pragmatic way, recognising the roles played by all involved.

By including a contractual commitment to undertake reviews of key areas of interest, and ensuring that consultation and debate was part of that process, the HSE has also provided a significant opportunity for industry to continue to contribute to how the sector as a whole moves forward.

1.2 Context for change

Throughout the consultation phase of the Review it was notable the extent to which respondents and participants communicated a desire for change and, significantly, for the Review to identify options which would be practical and deliverable. Significantly many of these participants also acknowledged for the first time that they, as industry, would have a role to play in the delivery of many of the solutions discussed – this in itself could be seen as a step forward for the industry and should be welcomed.

It was also notable that much of the discussion and feedback centered on activity which could be defined as „prevention‟ rather than simple „enforcement‟ as the activities were seen to be intrinsically linked.

Gas industry stakeholders and contributors from across other parts of industry, many of whom had contributed to the earlier reviews, acknowledged that many of the key issues are similar to those identified previously. It also clearly communicated a desire for this not to be „business as usual‟ and for the sense of momentum which has built up to help carry the industry as a whole through to better ways of working.

There are a number of contributory factors which have helped to influence this desire for change:

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1.2.1 The creation of the Gas Safe Register

Although the central function of the Gas Safe Register (maintaining a register of those competent and qualified to work on gas as defined by the GSIUR) remains unchanged, the new operator has made significant efforts to highlight differences in approach:

  1. Greater clarity in the role of the registration operator
  2. Consumer-focused communication, with a clear emphasis on gas safety messages
  3. No commercial distractions such as selling of products or services to the registration base – the previous scheme operator which had faced accusations of a conflict of interest arising from its commercial activities
  4. A clear commitment to consultation and openness in discussions with the industry
  5. A clearer inspection and investigation process with more of a focus on risk-basedtargeting

There is also increasing evidence that the registration base, and other stakeholders, have responded positively to the change in approach as indicated in informal sampling and contract performance measurement undertaken by Gas Safe Register.

1.2.2 The broader economic climate

The economic downturn has brought greater pressures to bear on registered businesses, regardless of their size or area of specialisation. The broader building services sector has been hit hard by the downturn in construction of new homes with a knock-on effect to related industries such as heating and plumbing.

The difficult trading conditions have also had an impact on merchants and retailers as they face an increased number of challenges. Including:

  1. An increase in internet sales, either direct from manufacturers or through resellers
  2. The second-hand market, either physically through car-boot sales or online throughchannels such as eBay
  3. Consumers purchasing appliances directly rather than through the registeredbusiness and therefore reducing the opportunities to build ongoing commercial

    relationships

  4. Pressure on margins

1.2.3 Frustrations with the current system

It is perhaps inevitable that anyone operating within an industry which imposes regulations and limits on how an individual may operate and trade will express frustration with those systems from time to time and those within the domestic gas industry are no exception.

Although a wildly diverse industry will also have wildly diverse concerns a number of issues emerge as key themes:

  1. Effectiveness of the current penalties as a deterrent to breaking the law
  2. A lack of understanding of the systems and processes
  3. Illegal gas workers (e.g. taking work from registered businesses) and unregulated access to gas carrying appliances and parts
  4. Bureaucratic burden on registered business (e.g. costs associated with maintaining a demonstrating qualifications and competence, systems in place for reporting unsafe gas work and notifying relevant installations)

These issues, and others, have combined to creation a greater collectively expressed desire for systems and processes which better serve the needs of the industry as a whole. It has

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also led to a greater recognition of the balance of rights and responsibilities which fall upon all of the different stakeholders involved.

Whether this appetite for reform will survive an eventual economic upturn, or whether it is primarily a product of circumstances, is a broader question which sits outside the scope of this review. It would not be a cynical response to act on this current appetite but accusations of acting in bad faith are always a possibility.

The industry as a whole has driven the process of identifying the key issues and set the agenda for this review – it has also acknowledged that it will play a significant role in delivering the reforms.

More directly, these concerns were used as the starting point for the initial consultation sessions for the Review and helped form the more detailed questions which were used in survey and workshops (see Section 1.4 – Methodology).

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1.3 Shape of the industry – agencies & responsibilities, legislation & regulations

The „ecosystem‟ of the domestic gas safety industry is complex with a number of bodies responsible for key elements, some with formal responsibilities and powers of prosecution and others whose role is to support enforcement of the regulations.

In matters relating to enforcement of the GSIUR the primary agencies are:

HSE – the Health & Safety Executive is the national regulator on work-related health, safety and sickness issues. HSE inspectors investigate and gather evidence for potential prosecutions; HSE can conduct interviews under the Police and Criminal Evidence act (PACE). Prosecutions are often brought under the Health & Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 or the GSIUR. HSE is the body responsible for the majority of prosecutions for breaches relating to gas work.

Gas Safe Register – Operator of the mandatory gas registration scheme for Great Britain, Isle of Man, Northern Ireland and states of Guernsey. Gas Safe Register investigates incidences and reports of unsafe and/or illegal gas work and supplies information to prosecuting bodies.

Trading Standards – The trading standards service enforces consumer-related legislation as set out by central government. This service has been involved in bringing prosecutions related to gas but often under related legislation e.g. the Gas Cooking Appliances (Safety) Regulations 1989

In addition to those agencies directly responsible for enforcing regulations relating to gas there are others who operate in related areas which can overlap, particularly in more complex investigations:

Building Control departments of local authorities – The main function of Building Control is to ensure compliance with the building regulations. This function is carried out by a Building Control Body (BCB), either the local authority building control service or a private sector Approved Inspector (AI). Certain types of building work can be self-certificated as compliant with building regulations by a member of a Competent Person Scheme without the need to notify a BCB.

Environmental Health departments – the Environmental Health Departments aim to facilitate the provision of a cleaner, safer and healthier place to live and work, and the development of a more responsible and aware public, conscious of the health and environmental impacts associated with behavior and lifestyle.

There are a number of other groups which, while not responsible for enforcement, have responsibilities which relate to gas safety:

Gas Safe registered businesses and engineers – have clearly defined responsibilities under the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations and which are laid out in the rules of registration. Also have responsibilities relating to the reporting of unsafe gas work through RIDDOR and notifying work undertaken on controlled services to the relevant Building Control department.

Awarding and Certification bodies – Although not enforcement agencies the awarding and certification bodies have a role in so far as they assess the competence of those wishing to work on gas and provide evidence which is used by the registration body (Gas Safe Register). The certificates/awards are validated

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through the recently established gas industry Standards Setting Body which is facilitated by EU Skills.

Additionally, there is also broader consumer protection legislation which can be used alongside any gas-related prosecution activity e.g. in cases where a consumer may have been treated unfairly because a trader has pretended to hold qualifications they do not have. Much of this activity is covered by the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 which came into force on 26 May 2008.

They implement the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive (UCPD) in the UK, and replace several pieces of consumer protection legislation that were in force prior to 26 May 2008. The Regulations introduce a general duty not to trade unfairly and seek to ensure that traders act honestly and fairly towards their customers. They apply primarily to business to consumer practices (but elements of business to business practices are also covered where they affect, or are likely to affect, consumers).

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1.4 Methodology

A central underpinning principle of the Enforcement Review 2010 was the importance of consultation and engagement with the industry and broader stakeholders.

This principle was applied at all stages in the research phase of the report, from the setting of the questions asked to „re-playing‟ and validating the analysis of the comments received in separate workshops.

The mixed make-up of these sessions, and the range of responses given, meant they were not intended to generate unanimous and complete validation of all of the points raised but rather to ensure that the points raised were not aberrant outliers or skewed by partisan or special interests.

A number of methods were undertaken to gather information and viewpoints for the review

  1. Industry and stakeholder workshops/forums (to help set the topics for examination)
  2. Industry and stakeholder questionnaire (to establish the industry view)
  3. Consumer questionnaire
  4. Feedback and review workshops(to playback the results and analysis of the questionnaires and to gain reactions to the options arising)

Initial Workshops/forums:

Between December 2009 and February 2010 Gas Safe Register facilitated workshops with industry groups to understand their views on current enforcement and to find out if they believed changes were necessary.

Further workshops were held following the results of the trade and stakeholder survey to review and verify the findings.

Workshop Format

The workshop format was forum based. Attendees were asked to express their views and discuss the points raised by participants as a group. The meetings were facilitated by Gas Safe Register technical experts who have a full understanding of the industry. All meetings were fully minuted.

Workshops

Date

Stakeholders

21 October 2009

Large Business

15 & 16 December 2009

APHC

21 January 2010

Local Businesses

27 January 2010

ARGI

10 February 2010

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Validation and playback

The information derived from the workshops, surveys and comments was then analysed to identify the significant areas of interest and potential ways forward.

To minimise any possibility of interpretive bias these findings were then presented back to representative groups. These feedback sessions encouraged attendees to discuss their reactions to the findings and to evaluate the potential practical applicability and effectiveness of the options for change which were identified.

The evaluation sessions also provided a valuable secondary function as it enabled the Review team to gauge the levels of engagement from the industry and to assess their appetite for participation in delivering parts of the potential solutions.

Attendees included representatives from trade bodies, manufacturers, merchants and a selection of large and small registered businesses.

The validation and playback workshops took place in April and May 2010.

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1.5 Summary of findings

Section 1.4 presents the results from the two surveys conducted.

The industry and stakeholder survey was carried out in January 2010 and the consumer survey in March 2010.

1.5.1 Industry and stakeholder survey

The initial workshops helped to define the areas and topics for the survey of registered businesses. The survey was sent to 61,780 businesses on the Gas Safe Register database and over 300 groups organisations and individuals previously identified as key stakeholders – these included representatives of energy suppliers, consumer groups, charities and other bodies which have an interest in gas safety or provide a reach to an audience group.

The survey received 4393 responses – a 7% response rate. The third party market research company which carried out the research advise that this is a good response rate and provides a very high statistical confidence level across all of the regions sampled – i.e. sufficient responses were received to ensure that the results from smaller regions were not skewed by individual responses.

In addition to the „closed‟ questions presented in this section it also offered the opportunity for open comment. These comments have also been recorded and a summary presented in Section 1.5.1.1 with a more detailed breakdown in Appendix 1.

Two questions were used to establish demographic detail and to ensure there was adequate representation:

Question 1: “Which region do you live in?”

Which region do you live in?

Region %

South East

21.00%

Yorkshire/Humberside

11.20%

North West

9.80%

South West

9.60%

Scotland

8.40%

London

8.40%

East Midlands

7.30%

West Midlands

6.90%

East

6.00%

North East

5.70%

Wales

5.50%

To ensure the regional coverage was sufficient, reminders were sent out by e-mail to regions that had a low initial response rate.

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Question 2: Description of the business

Please select from the list below the best description for your business

100.00%

Gas Safe registered business (sole trader)

61.30%

Gas Safe registered business

34.00%

Local Government

2.00%

Other Stakeholder

1.70%

Landlord

0.60%

Manufacturer

0.50%

Because the volume of businesses surveyed is high compared to the number of stakeholders the response is proportional. The response rate of sole traders versus larger businesses is also proportional – i.e. it broadly represents the make-up of the current Gas Safe Register.

This background data gave sufficient comfort that the response were adequately representative of the registration base and that all registered businesses were given the opportunity to contribute.

Questions 3 – 7 of the industry survey gave respondents the opportunity to feedback on their views on more detailed and specific issues relating to the review.

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Question 3: Which of the organisations listed below have a role to play in the enforcement of gas safety within the current regulations?

Q3

Agree/ Strongly Agree

Disagree/ Strongly Disagree

Gas Safe Register

92.00%

8.00%

Health and Safety Executive (HSE)

90.50%

9.50%

Registered businesses and engineers

89.10%

10.90%

Appliance and gas carrying part suppliers and retailers

76.20%

23.90%

Appliance and gas carrying part manufacturers

74.70%

25.30%

D. Trading Standards

65.80%

34.20%

A. Building control departments

61.40%

38.60%

Local Authorities

59.90%

40.10%

Energy Providers

53.00%

47.00%

C. Planning departments

44.20%

55.80%

B. Environmental health departments

40.20%

59.80%

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG)

34.70%

65.30%

The highest % of agreement was for Gas Safe Register to have a role where 92% of people agreed or strongly agreed. Notably, 86% of people strongly agreed.

The strongest disagreement was for The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) with 65% disagreeing and strongly disagreeing, 31% strongly disagreed. Environmental Health and Planning Departments also had a strong disagreement level.

Further analysis shows that both sole traders and businesses agreed that Gas Safe Register, HSE and registered businesses have the most significant role to play. Some respondents had limited understanding of the role of the various organisations listed which was demonstrated in the verbatim comments.

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Question 4: How effective is the current gas safety enforcement at…?

Effective/ Very Effective

Q2

Not Effective

Providing clear guidance to engineers on the legal requirements of delivering safe gas work

74.70%

25.30%

Changing the behaviours of registered engineers in the delivery of competent and safe gas work

70.40%

29.60%

Promoting gas safety awareness

53.70%

46.20%

Ensuring other legislative compliance is met, such as Building Regulations

45.50%

54.50%

Delivering proportionate levels of fines and sanctions based upon the severity of the offence

41.00%

58.90%

Promoting and publicising successful enforcement actions

40.80%

59.20%

Deterring businesses and engineers operating outside of their competencies or registration status

40.30%

59.80%

Removing the opportunity for engineers to undertake unsafe gas work

39.10%

60.90%

Ensuring that landlords maintain gas installations in their properties to the required standards

34.30%

65.70%

Reducing illegal and dangerous gas work

33.40%

66.60%

Protecting the gas consumer from rogue traders

28.40%

71.60%

Effectiveness of current gas safety enforcement was considered to be low for most areas with no rating exceeding 75% effective. The highest rating was for providing clear guidance to engineers on the legal requirements of delivering safe gas work. The lowest rating with 71% not effective was protecting the gas consumer from rogue traders. Illegal and dangerous work had a low rating of 33% effectiveness. Only 3 out of 11 options, 27% exceeded a 50% effectiveness rating.

Overall, across both sole traders and businesses, the satisfaction level was considered low and the highest very effective rating was only 32%.

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Question 5: What do you consider to be the most effective activities in the current gas safety enforcement regime?

Effective/ Very Effective

Not Effective

Q5

23.10%

A Prison sentence for offenders who have been through the court process

76.90%

29.60%

A fine for offenders who have been through the court process

70.50%

Prohibition notice served by the enforcing authority (e.g. HSE/ Local Authorities)

stopping dangerous gas work being undertaken by named businesses or engineers

30.30%

69.70%

Removal from the Gas Safe Register

68.80%

31.20%

36.50%

Improvement notice by the enforcing authority (e.g. HSE/ Local Authorities) requiring defined improvement action by named businesses or engineers

63.50%

Defect Notice issued by Gas Safe Register

60.50%

39.50%

49.50%

Letter sent by the enforcing authority (e.g. HSE/ Local Authorities)

50.50%

Effectiveness ratings for this question were relatively low. A high „not effective‟ rating was demonstrated for letters sent by the enforcing authority with 49.5%.

Standard activities such as defect and improvement notices were only considered to be marginally effective with an average of 60% effective. An average of only 24% very effective was attributed to these activities.

90.00% 80.00% 70.00% 60.00% 50.00% 40.00% 30.00% 20.00% 10.00%

0.00%

What Do You Consider to be the Most Effective Activities in the Current Enforcement Regime?

Agree/Strongly Agree

Disagree/Strongly Disagree

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Letter sent by the enforcing authority (e.g. HSE/ Local Authorities)

Defect Notice issued by Gas Safe Register

Improvement notice by the enforcing authority (e.g. HSE/ Local Authorities) requiring…

Removal from the Gas Safe Register

Prohibition notice served by the enforcing authority (e.g. HSE/ Local Authorities) stopping …

A fine for offenders who have been through the court process

A Prison sentence for offenders who have been through the court process

Question 6: How could improvements be made to the current gas safety enforcement regime?

Q6

Effective/ Very Effective

Not Effective

Working with manufacturers to help manage the distribution of gas appliances to registered businesses only

90.40%

9.6%

Improved promotion of enforcement actions to act as a deterrent to others working unsafely or illegally

86.30%

13.7%

Simplified reporting processes to speed up enforcement actions

85.70%

14.3%

Greater levels of fines and sanctions applied to those in breach of the regulations

85.00%

15.1%

Increased information and education of magistrates and judges about the dangers of unsafe gas work

83.00%

17.0%

Education of both existing engineers and new entrants on the dangers of working unsafely or illegally

78.10%

21.9%

Wider understanding of the scope of the current regulations and how they should be applied

76.10%

24.0%

Name and shaming of offenders in the media and other highly visible sites such as billboards

75.90%

24.0%

Greater collaborative working between government agencies and enforcement bodies

73.50%

26.5%

Closer working with other enforcing authorities (e.g. Police, Fire Service)

64.60%

35.4%

Delegation of limited enforcement powers to other bodies (e.g. power to serve enforcement notices)

60.20%

39.8%

This question received high effectiveness ratings. Working with manufacturers was considered to be the most effective activity by both sole traders and businesses; this received a 79% „very effective‟ rating.

The next highest very effective rating was for greater levels of fines and sanctions with 55.5%.The least effective activity was the delegation of enforcement powers with a 40% not effective rating.

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100.00% 90.00% 80.00% 70.00% 60.00% 50.00% 40.00% 30.00% 20.00% 10.00%

0.00%

How Could Improvements be Made to the Current Gas Safety Enforcement Regime?

Agree/Strongly Agree

Disagree/Strongly Disagree

25

Delegation of limited enforcement powers to other bodies (e.g. power to serve …

Closer working with other enforcing authorities (e.g. Police, Fire Service)

Greater collaborative working between government agencies and enforcement bodies

Name and shaming of offenders in the media and other highly visible sites such as billboards Wider understanding of the scope of the current regulations and how they should be applied

Increased information and education of magistrates and judges about the dangers of …

Greater levels of fines and sanctions applied to those in breach of the regulations

Simplified reporting processes to speed up enforcement actions

Improved promotion of enforcement actions to act as a deterrent to others working… Working with manufacturers to help manage the distribution of

gas appliances to registered…

Question 7: Imagine you are a gas consumer; what would be your expectation of actions that would be taken should you find out that the engineer who undertook gas work in your home was not registered or if the work was identified as dangerous?

Effective/ Very Effective

Q7

Not Effective

Investigation of the engineer / work and actions taken to prevent a similar occurrence happening to another consumer

94.30%

5.60%

Automatic referral of information about the business to Gas Safe Register

91.70%

8.20%

Impose sanctions against the business/ engineer and ensure that all work is corrected free of charge

89.60%

10.40%

The business/ engineer named and shamed in the local area

75.90%

24.00%

I don’t know where to go to report unsafe gas work

45.20%

54.90%

High ratings overall were attributed to these options. 82% of respondents felt that investigation of the engineer was very effective. Just under 55% of people felt that a consumer would be unsure of where to report unsafe gas work.

100.00% 90.00% 80.00% 70.00% 60.00% 50.00% 40.00% 30.00% 20.00% 10.00%

0.00%

Expectations of Gas Consumers For Actions Against Unregistered People or Engineers Carrying Out Dangerous Work in Your Home

Agree/Strongly Agree

Disagree/Strongly Disagree

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I don’t know where to go to report unsafe gas work

The business/ engineer named and shamed in the local area

Impose sanctions against the business/ engineer and ensure that all work is corrected free of charge

Automatic referral of information about the business to Gas Safe Register

Investigation of the engineer / work and actions taken to prevent asimilar occurrence happeningto another consumer

1.5.1.1 Industry and stakeholder survey – open questions and comments

The survey sent to industry and stakeholder audiences also contained a section inviting open responses and comment.

3775 comments were received as part of the survey. These were classified into the most commonly occurring themes using Excel. Often respondents made several points in one comment, the main point was used to classify the comment.

Row Labels

  1. Sale of Appliances
  2. Penalties
  3. Consumer
  4. Illegal Workers
  5. Media
  6. Landlords
  7. Training
  8. Authorities
  9. Role to play
  10. HSE/Govt
  11. Education
  12. Reporting Unsafe/Illegal Work
  13. Removal
  14. Legislation
  15. Manufacturers
  16. Insurance

1150 34.3% 430 12.8% 420 12.5% 397 11.8% 176 5.2% 148 4.4% 135 4.0%

85 2.5% 80 2.4% 74 2.2% 57 1.7% 56 1.7% 53 1.6% 43 1.3% 30 0.9% 21 0.6%

Grand Total

16 key themes were clear with the sale of gas appliances being the most frequent comment.

There was concern that, while this breakdown was useful in indicating the frequency and volume of comments on a particular topic that it should not be the exclusive indicator of the importance of the topics to all the respondents. For example, the sale of appliances was an issue of particular importance to Gas Safe registered businesses, particularly sole traders. It was not the dominant comment from those operating in different parts of the industry e.g. manufacturers or merchants.

However, the validation and playback sessions offered an opportunity to discuss the relative importance of the topics and the group responses indicated that it did provide a useful indicator of the areas warranting further discussion.

A breakdown of the verbatim comments received is contained in Appendix 1

Count of Comments

3355

100.0%

%

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1.5.2 Consumer survey

In March 2010 a survey was conducted to establish current consumer understanding of issues around enforcement and the agencies responsible for its delivery.

It was accepted from the outset that the majority of consumers were unlikely to have a detailed working knowledge of the processes sitting behind enforcement of gas safety regulations and the survey work was adjusted accordingly e.g. there were no questions asked about the specific legislation relating to gas safety

The research objective for the consumer survey was to establish general perceptions of illegal gas workers and identify the sources of support and information available to consumers.

The research was conducted by a third party market research company and took the form of a telephone omnibus survey of approximately 1000 adults. The data was then weighted to ensure it was representative of the UK population.

The survey was made up of seven questions in total.

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Initial positioning and qualifying information

In order to establish the level of personal engagement and interest in the topic of gas safety two initial positioning questions were asked:

Q1. Do you have any gas appliances, such as gas cooker, gas fires or a boiler, in your home?

82%

18%

There was a degree of regional variation in the scoring to this question which may be of value to those targeting resources but which is not materially relevant to the overall findings. A further breakdown of these regional variations is included in the Appendix

Q2. Have you had any gas work done in the last year (e.g. a boiler, gas fire or cooker fitted, repaired or serviced)?

Yes No

53%

47%

(Base – those who indicated they had a gas appliance in the home)

Again, there was a degree of variation in the responses – both geographically and depending on the age profile of the respondent. (See Appendix)

Yes No

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Key findings from the consumer survey:

Following these positioning questions respondents were then asked for their views on issues around awareness of the key agencies, processes and penalties, sources of information, responsibilities and where they should go to take action.

The questions break down as follows:

Q3. Who do you think is responsible for enforcing the gas safety law?

Government (Health & Safety Executive) Gas Safe registered engineers Gas Safe Register

Trading Standards Local Councils Energy Providers

Gas appliance manufacturers Gas appliance retailers None of these

Don’t know

75 72

70 68

1 3

55 47

44 35

0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100 % Respondents

Consumers clearly indicated that they see government, or government approved agencies such as the Gas Safe Register, as having significant responsibility for enforcement of gas safety regulations.

It would require additional research to establish the depth of understanding of the roles of each agency e.g. do the public understand the investigation and prosecution powers of HSE? Or are they simply „responsible‟, as the relevant part of government.

It is also notable that consumers also saw a significant role for industry, specifically manufacturers and retailers. The role of Gas Safe registered engineers may be one of „compliance with‟ rather than „enforcement of‟ the regulations.

There was also a disparity between consumer and industry views on whether a consumer should be penalised for commissioning illegal gas work – the strong appetite for consumer responsibility from industry was not mirrored in consumer‟s own views.

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Q4. What would you expect the people enforcing the law to do if a gas fitter has undertaken illegal or dangerous work in your home?

Tell Gas Safe Register about the gas fitter so they can investigate and monitor the work

Send a ‘stop working now’ warning letter to the gas fitter, pending investigation

Take legal action against the gas fitter

Tell the gas fitter to get Gas Safe registered

Order the gas fitter to pay for a Gas Safe registered engineer to fix the work

Ask the gas fitter to pay a penalty and to stop working pending investigation

Send you a letter advising you not to use illegal gas fitters

Name and shame the gas fitter in their local area by publishing their details

Ask you to pay a penalty for using an illegal gas fitter 27 Don’t know 2

83 80

77 76

75 69

67

55

0 102030405060708090100 % Respondents

Four out of five believe that those enforcing the law should tell the registration body about the gas fitter or send a letter telling the fitter to stop working. Only one in four felt the customer should be penalised.

Amongst consumers there was some appetite for „naming and shaming‟, although not as strongly expressed as industry had projected (see industry survey question 7).

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Q5. Where have you found out about (or would you expect to find out about) a gas fitter that has carried out illegal or dangerous gas work?

On Gas Safe Register’s website or by calling On the enforcement body’s website or by calling

On a council website or by calling them In a newspaper article or on TV Some other way Don’t know

74 67

The broader issue addressed by this question is the role of a „blacklist‟ which would work alongside the register and give details on those no longer allowed to work on gas. Although the public nature of a prosecution means there may not be immediate data protection issues around naming those who have been successfully pursued there is more potential complexity in „tagging‟ the listings for registered businesses who may have been prosecuted but who have not been removed from the register as this may breach the undertakings to treat all registered businesses equally. There are also potential Human Rights implications.

The development of any centralised repository of information on those who have been prosecuted e.g. www.prosecuted.co.uk would require further investigation before any roll-out to ensure compliance.

Newspaper and TV articles were mentioned as being useful – which reflects the industry view that this would be an effective channel to reach consumers. There was little initial appreciation of the costs of undertaking a high-profile national broadcast campaign.

It is notable that the channels seen as being most effective are „active‟ rather than „passive‟ e.g. consumers would go to a location to seek out information rather than passively wait to consume it through traditional media.

14 5

61 58

0 102030405060708090100 % Respondents

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Q6. Do you agree we all have a role to play in stopping illegal and potentially dangerous gas work?

65+ 55-64 45-54 35-44 25-34 16-24

92

92 91

94 96

81

0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100 % Respondents

Although initially easy to view as a leading question, this was intended to flush out any differences between in understanding between those with formal roles and the broader sense of responsibility when dealing with gas.

Although there was some variance within the age ranges (as indicated above) the response rates were high across all ages. Although there was some regional variation no area indicated less than 80% agreement.

The responses indicated a degree of willingness amongst consumers to take some responsibility to tackle illegal gas working, at least in principle.

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Q7. What action would you be most likely to take to stop illegal or dangerous gas work?

Report the gas fitter to Trading Standards

Report the gas fitter to Gas Safe Register

Report the gas fitter to the law enforcement body

I wouldn’t know who to report the gas fitter to

40

24

19

The responses to Q7 are designed to indicate which agency the consumer would contact, not the likelihood of them taking any action at all (i.e. does the consumer make the connection between their answers to Q6 and Q7).

The strong response to Trading Standards may simply indicate a greater unprompted recall of the agency as they have been in existence for a considerable period. Although trading standards may take an interest in some gas related prosecutions they are unlikely to be the body in the majority of cases.

17

0 10 20 30 40 50 % Respondents

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2. PREVENTION ACTION 2.1 Overview

Whenever the topic of enforcement was raised as part of the formal and informal scoping exercise during the preparation of the Review, or even as part of day to day business, comments from respondents regularly moved to cover areas which could easily be defined as being beyond simple enforcement of regulations.

Regardless of whether the respondent was a sole trader or a national name, a merchant or a manufacturer, when respondents were asked for views on enforcement very often their sentence would start:

“You have to prevent…”
“People must be discouraged from…”
“If we could just stop „X‟ then we wouldn‟t have a problem…”

This idea, that preventing someone from breaching regulations was a logical part of enforcing those regulations, led the Review to closer examination of preventative activity as a whole.

The idea is seductive – preventing a breach in regulations means no-one has suffered as a result of that breach, reducing harm to the public; reactive investigations into breaches of regulations are time-consuming and expensive, resources could be better deployed elsewhere etc.

For many of those who participated in this Review it was clear that prevention of activity which had an impact on gas safety, whether by businesses, individuals or consumers, played as significant a role as actual enforcement of regulations when it came to addressing the broader issues of gas safety.

Within this broader heading of „preventative action‟ two major sub-themes emerged:

Management of the sales of gas appliances or parts
Improved information for, and the creation of, better educated consumers.

In many cases these potential actions are closely linked rather than being seen as discrete activity. Section 2 will examine these issues and potential actions identified by the contributors which could be put in place to address them.

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2.2 Management of the sales of gas appliances and parts

The management, or limiting, of the sales of gas appliances to those who can demonstrate that they are suitably qualified and competent (usually through presenting a valid ID card for the gas registration body at the point of purchase) was the most frequently mentioned topic throughout the research phase of the review.

For some respondents, limiting sales is the „magic bullet‟ which will eliminate illegal and dangerous gas work overnight while for others it is an unacceptable, potentially illegal, restriction of their rights to trade.

It is also an area where opinions differ significantly depending on the respondent‟s role in the industry. Registered businesses, particularly sole traders, see uncontrolled sales as a significant threat to their business as it means they are competing with unregistered businesses who do not have the same operating costs; merchants and manufacturers are concerned about the increased administrative and legal burden any new systems would place upon them in an already economically depressed market where they face increased competition.

Before specific options are examined it is worth considering the overall shape of the market for appliance sales. Much of the debate in this area centres on boilers. However, other gas appliances should also be examined, particularly as they may be focused on different sales and distribution channels.

The three main types of domestic gas appliances sold in the UK are:

Central heating boilers

In 2009, c.1.5 million boilers were sold in the UK (source: Gas boiler statistics by SEDBUK band for 2009 on behalf of Heating & Hot Water Information Council – HHIC).

The vast majority are sold through the traditional supply chain, via large and small merchants, and direct to registered businesses buying on behalf of customers.

There is anecdotal evidence from some respondents that more consumers are purchasing appliances directly, either through manufacturers or online, although none were able to provide supporting data.

Fires (space heaters)

There are no central figures available from HHIC on fire sales but an informal industry estimate suggests sales in the region of 250,000 per year. Fires of this kind are more likely to be sold direct to consumers via consumer-focused retailers or via High Street showrooms. This kind of appliance is also available for sale direct to consumers online through many larger retailers

Cookers

There are no validated figures available on cooker sales although white goods industry guidance suggests in the region of one million were sold in 2009. Cookers tend to be sold direct to consumers via High Street or consumer-focused merchants.

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Note – Several of the larger retailers offer a „fitting‟ service for cookers where they utilise suitably qualified contractors or employees to fit the appliance in accordance with regulations. Anecdotal evidence suggests that a relatively low percentage of consumers take up this option.

There is scope to consider expansion of this offering to make it an „opt-out‟ rather than an „opt-in‟ service.

Overall, this suggests that, by volume, the majority of gas appliances sold each year are sold direct to the public, not to trade. There is insufficient evidence as to whether this directly relates to installations and commissioning – e.g. whether a consumer who purchases an appliance personally is doing so with a view to fitting it themselves or simply to avoid the „mark-up‟ potentially added if it was purchased through the heating engineer who is then asked to fit it.

In the research stage of this report the majority of responses and discussions centred on the sale of boilers (and boiler spares) rather than the other kinds of appliance. Whether this is because these other appliances are seen as „plug and play‟ items rather than complex systems or because they have always been seen as consumer-facing items, where aesthetics have as large a role to play as efficiency, is difficult to confirm.

The nature of the sales environments in which each of these categories of appliance are sold is also a potential contributory factor to how they are viewed by customers. Fires and cookers are displayed out of packaging, often in mock-ups of the home environment where they will be used. They are presented as „lifestyle‟ items rather than complex appliances.

Boilers, however, are more likely to be on shelves within their packaging (if visible at all) and displayed alongside spares and other equipment required for their installation or repair – they are positioned as more technical items.

Note – The different messages sent to consumers about the relative complexity of gas appliances feeds into broader discussions about the role they can play in ensuring all concerned are operating safely and are addressed in Section 4 of the Review.

Whenever the issue of limiting sales discussion was raised by contributors the topic quickly settled into an examination of two models for how it could be managed:

Mandatory restriction
A voluntary scheme (or schemes)

This divide is also consistent with the options considered during earlier reviews. However, given the changes in the industry since 2006 it is worth re-examining each approach and assessing any potential merits.

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2.2.1 Mandatory restriction

If a mandatory scheme demanding that retailers (regardless of whether they are consumer or trade focused, on the High Street or online) check the identity of purchasers of gas appliances to ensure they are on the Gas Safe Register were to be brought in then a number of issues would have to be addressed.

For example, there was little agreement from respondents regarding how wide any restriction should be – should it apply only to boilers or be extended to all gas appliances and parts? As noted previously, a restriction which only applied to the sale of boilers may go some way to addressing the issue of illegal gas fitters being able to compete with registered businesses but would not reach consumers who may look to purchase and then fit a cooker.

Preparing and implementing the changes in legislation which would be required were seen to be time-consuming and, in absence of any strong expressions of appetite for change from government, not even guaranteed to be implemented.

It was also noted that further investigation has identified significant problems parallel with those experienced when this model first emerged in 2006.

Firstly, restricting the sale of appliances would probably breach European Competition Legislation. Legal advice suggests that if introduced now, the UK TV licensing system would also breach European law on the same grounds: it does not do so because the legislation was not retroactive, and therefore control at the point of sale measures that predated the legislation are exempt.

Secondly, in the event that legal barriers are overcome, such a scheme would require significant additional resources both to regulate and set up. This would include demands on retailers and would presumably, as a result, face resistance although those respondents representing retailers and manufacturers said they would comply with any changes in legislation.

This potential resistance is potential feature of any mandatory scheme which would be seen as a „stick‟ rather than a „carrot‟ for an industry which already views itself as struggling under bureaucratic burdens.

2.2.2 Voluntary Schemes

Whilst the majority of respondents supported a mandatory limitation at the point of sale, the feedback workshops also developed the idea of applying a similar model but on a voluntary basis.

This approach, if adopted, was seen as potentially more flexible as it could be introduced incrementally which would reduce the load on merchants and retailers as they developed appropriate systems. It would also give industry the opportunity to assess and review at every stage.

The adoption of a voluntary model, perhaps in the form of a code of conduct rather than formal agreements, was rejected in earlier reviews but the response from many in industry indicates that that there may now be increased appetite for change.

One particular trade survey question suggested possible improvements to the current enforcement regime:

38

‘Working with manufacturers to help manage the distribution of gas appliances to registered businesses only’

79.2% of respondents rate this as being very effective, with a further 11.2% rating this as effective. This combined figure of 90.4% from respondents indicates an overwhelming desire for change. It is worth noting that this is by far the strongest single question response within the entire survey. (See trade survey results in Section 1)

An incremental approach was also seen as allowing a „stake in the ground‟ rather than expecting a fully featured system to be adopted from the beginning.

Worked examples

There are examples from within the industry of how a voluntary code of conduct could be applied to achieve the effect desired by the respondents.

Incremental adoption and peer pressure –

For many years „black spot‟ carbon monoxide detectors (which change colour when exposed to CO but which do not have any other warning signal such as a light or an audible alert) were sold by a variety of companies, some of whom were members of the Council for Gas Detection and Environmental Monitoring (COGDEM). COGDEM developed a view that their members should not recommend or use these products and should withdraw them from sale in favour of audible alarms.

Over a period of approximately five years COGDEM lobbied and encouraged members to phase out the sale of „black spot‟ detectors. Despite initial resistance and scepticism from some quarters members adopted this policy over time.

It is worth noting that there was no change in legislation required – these detectors are still available for sale through other channels so it could not be argued that consumer choice had been removed. Those adopting this policy saw the benefits in adopting a policy which put public safety at the centre of the decision it allowed the industry as a whole to demonstrate it was behaving „responsibly‟.

Voluntary retail model –

Several of the larger trade-focused merchants have adopted a policy of requesting proof of Gas Safe registration before the sale of gas carrying parts or appliances – either by production of the licence card or by checking the registration number against the register. There is no formal reporting model back to the registration body and so administration costs have been minimised.

Those merchants who did choose this option also supported it with marketing campaigns positioning them as supporting registered businesses. These initiatives received positive coverage and comment from within the industry

Links to extended warranty –

An appliance manufacturer currently operates a scheme where routine warranty calls validate that the appliance installer is currently registered prior to any work being undertaken. This business model adopts a principle where if validation of the business is not demonstrated during the visit a charge will be incurred by the consumer. This system also

39

creates a stronger linkage and awareness to the consumer that the appliance must be installed by a registered, competent engineer.

Response and reaction to these initiatives particularly from registered businesses has seen positive feedback and comment.

Some manufacturers have identified that in addition to statutory warranties additional and extended warranty have been offered to differentiate themselves from the illegal installer to demonstrate added value.

Limits on collection and delivery –

In France there are no immediate restrictions on the actual sale of any appliance by the public but collection must be undertaken by a suitably qualified engineer – tying each installation to an address and a business.

Gathering information at point of sale –

All of the respondents were aware of the processes in place for gathering information from consumers purchasing a television and all were also aware of the legal complexities of introducing a similar mandatory system for gas appliances. Many respondents noted that a voluntary system had merit, although there were issues which would need to be addressed including questions about the type of information collected, how it would be stored, where it would be sent and how it would be used.

It was also noted that this kind of additional data gathering could provide rich marketing information for the retailers and that the purpose of the information gathering would need to be clearly explained to avoid accusations of misrepresentation.

This approach would also be supported by improved in-store information for consumers to address awareness of the risks and provide context for the activity. This is addressed in more detail in Section 2.3.3.1

2.2.3 Appliance Sale Management models summary

Throughout the consultation process it was recognised that although there were differences in approach between mandatory and voluntary schemes to address gas safety through the management of sales, the structural models themselves are similar.

Both models require compliance in order to succeed. For any mandatory model this is relatively easy to achieve as (assuming there is a willingness to enact the change) respondents indicated that they would always comply with any changes in legislation.

For any variants on the voluntary schemes to succeed they would require more than simple compliance – they would need to be actively supported by the industry:

  1. Gas Appliance Manufacturers
  2. Distributing Retailers/Merchants
  3. Registered Businesses

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Discussions indicated that the scope of the scheme options should include the following:

Mandatory

Voluntary

Supplying the appliance to a Gas Safe Registered business or engineer only, verified through either a current Gas Safe Register ID card or via the Gas Safe Register website www.gassaferegister.co.uk – Check a business/Check an engineer.

A simple request to the purchaser to provide proof of registration verified through either a current Gas Safe Register ID card or via the Gas Safe Register website www.gassaferegister.co.uk – Check a business/Check an engineer.

Collection of the appliance, customer and installation address details at the point

of sale only.

Notification of the sale of all gas appliances to the registration body to ensure that they were fitted by a legal and registered, competent operative (similar to TV licensing)

Gas appliances purchased by the consumer are only collectable by a Gas Safe Registered business or engineer.

All of the above

All of the above

Whether under a mandatory or voluntary model there is scope to implement many of the supporting activities incrementally.

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2.3 Consumer protection and awareness

2.3.1 The risks to consumers

The ultimate aim of any preventative action to reduce harm to the public by reducing the amount of dangerous gas work being undertaken. Anecdotal evidence and received wisdom within the industry for many years has been that illegal working presents a greater danger to the public but, until recently, there has been little evidence to support this assertion.

When considering consumer protection The Review of Domestic Gas Safety (2006) outlined a range of measures for reducing the risk of Carbon Monoxide (CO) poisoning, along with an assessment of their effectiveness. The review also recognised that „illegal installers presumably represent an increased risk to public safety since they are not subject to assessment, inspection and training‟.

Information gathered in investigations by the gas registration body now provides greater evidence that work undertaken by someone operating illegally is more likely to have faults or to be unsafe and to be more likely to present a risk of CO poisoning.

Given the potential of CO to cause death and serious injury, the changing pattern of risk presented among consumers plus the possible contribution this enforcement option will provide to reduce public health risk, it is essential that steps be taken to increase public awareness.

Although many of the respondents indicated that limiting or managing the sales of appliances would be a major contributor to consumer safety it was also recognised that it must be supported through the introduction of a widespread and continued publicity campaign promoting the use of registered, competent engineers and the risks associated with unsafe gas work. Increasing public awareness is seen by respondents, and in comments from the broader industry, as essential in reducing the demand for illegal gas fitters which will itself act as a preventative activity in support of enforcement.

2.3.2 Appliance installation and notification

While recognising that the majority of the activity around consumers is focused on increasing levels of awareness it was also noted that there are procedural changes for industry which could be made which would also have a number of potential benefits. Including:

Greater trackability of installations Improved consumer information Reduced opportunities for illegal working

This particular area identified that domestic gas safety begins with the correct installation of gas appliances in the home to ensure appropriate connection to the mains and proper ventilation to allow full complete combustion without the production of Carbon Monoxide (CO). Correctly installed appliances are not only safer, but, are likely to operate more efficiently and last longer. Appliance installation is an area that is targeted by the current regulatory regime.

Respondents suggested that a key information link in the appliance‟s „sale to installation journey‟ is the notification of the appliance installation. An extension of this notification system (particularly if linked to other schemes to gather information at point of sale) to include all gas appliances, and to extend the scheme to include servicing as well as installation, could see this current requirement, which currently operates to satisfy Building Regulations compliance, expand its scope to support a number of suggested measures.

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2.3.3 Display of safety information

It is recognised that the primary challenge relating to consumers is raising their awareness of the risks of unsafe and illegal gas work. The registration body, and a number of other agencies, are continuing to undertake awareness campaigns but there is also an opportunity to address the information presented to the consumer at the point of purchase or at the point of receipt.

There a number of channels to be considered if this approach is to be adopted:

In-store (inc. Online stores) Product packaging Documentation
On-product

2.3.3.1 In-store
As noted in Section 1.2.2 the majority of gas appliances (cookers and fires) are sold direct to the consumer. In retail environments set up to be visually appealing there may be limited opportunity to include prominent gas safety information but this should be actively considered.

Potential solutions which were put forward included the straightforward display of the relevant legislation, which was viewed by some as less desirable because consumers may not understand the meaning or the relevance, or more general guidance on the risks associated with poorly fitted gas appliances and advice on always using a suitably qualified and competent registered engineer to install, service or repair an appliance.

Display space in retail environments is always at a premium but initial discussions with some of the key retailers have indicated a willingness to consider this as an option.

It was also noted that this approach would also be a logical tie-in to any scheme which gathered information at point of sale.

As many of the larger consumer-focused retailers, have or are developing, more sophisticated online offerings due consideration should also be given to how gas safety information could be displayed in this environment. Options include links to relevant bodies e.g. HSE or Gas Safe Register, inclusion of information on every page showing a gas product or as a pre-purchase page which consumers navigate via before proceeding to the online checkout

2.3.3.2 Packaging

Product packaging was also seen as a potentially very useful area for consideration, and has the advantage that it available to the consumer at the point of purchase, regardless of whether it has been on display products.

Options put forward included standardised and prominent statements akin to the health warnings on cigarette packets, although this was seen by some as potentially too negative and would need to be monitored. It was also noted that the Gas Safe Register brand could potentially be powerfully used in this context as it owned by HSE and is not subject to change.

While noting that, particularly for large manufacturers, there may be a lag time as existing stocks of packaging are used this measure was seen by respondents as positive, achievable and having little or no additional cost implications.

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2.3.3.3 On gas appliance documentation –

In addition to product packaging the documentation supplied with products was also seen as a potentially useful channel to reach consumers. This was also noted in the 2006 review:

Manufacturer documentation distributed with gas appliances (for example the user manual or packaging) does not contain safety information relating to the potential hazard of CO. Manufacturers may be reluctant to do this because they do not want to create a perception of gas as an unsafe fuel, or of their product as an unsafe device. However, if manufacturers were to adopt a coordinated approach, a valuable opportunity to raise awareness could be created at a crucial time, helping to ensure that a properly qualified engineer carries out the installation of the appliance. Furthermore, if proactively implemented, it would allow the industry to claim a public relations success by placing public safety at the heart of its approach.

Feedback received from those participating in the review suggests that, while the central point about positioning gas as a safe fuel if used properly remains valid, there may now be sufficient appetite for change for this idea to warrant consideration again.

2.3.3.4 On products

Viewed as an extension of the idea of including information in documentation and on packaging there were a number of potential variants:

Permanent messaging – include advice on using only using registered engineers as part of the permanent information e.g. alongside the appliance operating instructions. This has the advantage of being permanently accessible by the consumer and very difficult for an unregistered installer to remove or hide.

Access tape – safety messaging sealing controls or pipe work which would require removal before an installation could commence. Although viewed positively it was noted that this would easily be circumvented if the installation was undertaken by someone operating illegally – the advice would simply be removed before the consumer saw it.

2.3.4 Technical options

As appliances, particularly boilers, become more sophisticated there has also been growing interest, particularly from installation businesses, in technical options to prevent appliances being accessible by those who are not qualified.

The idea of providing „access codes‟ which would only be available at the point of commissioning to those who could prove they were qualified and competent was mooted, as was the notion of remote „kill switches‟ if appliances were not serviced. Feedback from some of the manufacturers involved in the research indicated that while some of these innovations are technically feasible there were significant cost implications which would inevitably be passed on the consumer – a consumer who may not yet see the benefit of placing control of „their appliance‟ out of their hands.

Respondents in the groups, particularly those still directly involved with installation or repair of appliances, saw potential merit in the idea but suggested that there may be consumer resistance.

There are already models in place which offer a degree of control over appliance commissioning such as the one in place in the Republic of Ireland. In this case the supply of gas to a property is limited by the energy provider until evidence of suitable installation and commissioning has been provided.

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2.4 Dependencies

In the absence of any mandatory change (seen as a likely outcome) to the legislation surrounding the supply of gas appliances or a binding instruction to increase the information available to consumers then any solutions would be entirely dependent on industry for their success.

2.4.1 Increased role for industry

Although many of the previous reviews and discussions have called for industry support the varied nature of the potential solutions, and the need to make these fit with existing commercial requirements, means that industry would have to take a much more pro-active role: owning the solutions rather than simply supporting them.

This would be a fundamental change to an industry which has hitherto been seen in many quarters as fragmented and focused on the short-term. It would also require significant behaviour change in all sectors but particularly amongst registered businesses.

Throughout the consultation there was considerable appetite for change and for action to be taken which would result in a safer industry which would have less scope for those operating illegally. However it is not clear that all respondents have tied this desire to changes in their own behaviour.

For example, although many registered businesses called for a limitation in the sales of appliances not all had supported those merchants who had launched their own schemes independently. Similarly, although there was considerable support for extending the notification of appliances not all businesses currently notify relevant installations.

Although there was almost unanimous recognition of the role registered businesses have to play in educating consumers about the risks of illegal and unqualified fitters not all automatically present their own registration credentials and licence card when arriving at a job.

Not all of these behaviour changes fall within the scope of this review but they will have a significant impact on how the industry responds.

Creating a culture of ownership and engagement is also an essential to engage retailers, merchants and manufacturers and to encourage them to act in a way which may ultimately be of greater longer term benefit.

2.4.2 Economic and legal challenges

In a difficult economic environment it is recognised that few companies will be willing to implement changes which may have costs or which may initially impact upon sales.

While recognising that there is significant appetite for change some respondents, particularly representatives of merchants, did express concerns about how any industry agreements on the management of sales would fit with their responsibilities under the Competition Act (the Office of Fair Trading does provide guidance for trade associations, professions and self- regulating bodies which may provide comfort).

It was also noted that some felt ill-equipped to be asked to act as „industry policemen‟.

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3. REACTIVE ENFORCEMENT ACTIVITY Introduction

Preventative actions, as examined in Section 2, have a significant role to play in reducing the incidences of illegal gas work by limiting the opportunities for work to be carried out and by creating better informed consumers. The enforcement bodies in the industry will continue to place a great deal of emphasis on prevention.

However, it was acknowledged by respondents that a significant part of the enforcement process only begins when a breach of the regulations has occurred and it has been brought to the attention of the authorities. In this context enforcement itself has two major constituent parts:

Investigation of offences Application of penalties

There remains a strong appetite from respondents to see dangerous gas work investigated effectively and for strong penalties to be applied in cases where guilt is established to act as an effective deterrent to others (although there are a wider range of views about exactly what those penalties should be).

A persistent theme which emerges from an examination of the comments from respondents, both in the surveys and face to face, suggests that, even within the industry, there remains an ongoing lack of understanding of the roles played by the different agencies involved in enforcement, the mechanisms already in place to enforce the regulations and the way penalties are calculated.

This lack of understanding has itself contributed to some of the frustration felt and expressed by some respondents.
This section of the Review will look at the current processes and tools and put forward some of the potential enhancements identified by the review contributors.

3.1 Investigation background

As highlighted in Section 1.2 the responsibility for investigating breaches of gas safety regulations sits primarily with the HSE and Gas Safe Register.
Gas Safe Register has a requirement under its agreement with HSE to investigate gas safety complaints received from the public regardless of whether the work was carried out by registered or unregistered gas engineers.

In less serious cases e.g. where work undertaken by a registered business/engineer is found to be „Not to Current Standards‟ as defined in the Gas Industry Unsafe Situations Procedure (GIUSP) then the most appropriate course of action is often to instruct the business/engineer to undertake remedial work (if they are qualified and competent to do so) or to have remedial work undertaken on their behalf. This approach allows for the Register to monitor and manage the work and to ensure that it meets the relevant standards. The process by which this approach is managed is set out in the Rules of registration for Gas Safe registered businesses Section 2(p).

The investigation work at this stage is primarily carried out by Gas Safe Register Inspectors.

However, in other cases it may be seen as more appropriate to take additional enforcement action, particularly where work has been undertaken and left in a dangerous condition or may have been carried out by an individual or business which was not qualified or registered. This kind of investigation is typically carried out by the Gas Safe Register National Investigations team, (See Section 3.1.1) with the information then passed to HSE for a decision on whether to pursue prosecution.

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As highlighted in section 1 the majority of prosecutions take place under the GSIUR or the Health & Safety at Work etc.Act.

3.1.1 The investigation process

Gas Safe Register has a dedicated team to research and investigate illegal/unregistered gas work activity across the UK. This team works closely with HSE Field Operation Department (FOD) and other enforcement agencies. Visits to site concerning alleged illegal activity can only be made by invitation or by request from the customer/end user. This normally follows suitable reporting/intelligence of illegal gas work activity (from industry and the public).

The process runs as follows:

Gas Safe Register
During the first 12 months of operation (Mar 09 – Apr 10), the Registration Body investigated 582 complaints about unregistered work received from the public (from 822 initial queries). These complaints are received directly from members of the public (or on subsequent advice from a registered business) following illegal gas work activity. All sites were attended and inspected with an in-depth investigation of all completed illegal gas work. The process is clearly explained to the customer:

An assessment is made of the installation to establish whether or not it is safe and complies to standards

If there is reason to believe that the work was undertaken by someone operating illegally then any other available evidence – receipts, paperwork, recommendations or names of other customers is collated

A report is completed and dispatched electronically within 10 working days of the visit to both customer and local HSE FOD office (and other relevant enforcement bodies with the customer‟s permission)

HSE
Gas safety procedures and enforcement is covered in an operational circular. In practice, using complaints of unregistered/illegal is along the lines of the following:

Unregistered activity/work is forwarded to HSE FOD (e.g. from Gas Safe Register, a householder, or a council Environmental Health Officer).
HSE check their database (COIN) to establish whether there are any prior complaints. If the engineer or business identified has an adverse record, a Principal Inspector is shown the papers for a decision on whether to proceed with a prosecution

If no such adverse record then company/fitter details are added to COIN and normally a HSE „Warning Letter‟ is sent to the company/fitter, detailing the allegation The originator of the complaint gets a letter also advising that the company/fitter has been warned etc.

The relationship between Gas Safe Register and the FOD allows for the sharing of additional information between the agencies, although the format and frequency varies from office to office.

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3.1.2 – The size of the illegal market

In 2009, Gas Safe Register commissioned research1 into those who advertised as carrying out gas fitting or were described as working in related areas likely to include an element of gas work; kitchen fitters, bathroom fitters, plumbers and general builders.
Interviews were conducted with a sample of those advertising their services – they were asked whether or not they were on the Gas Safe Register which allowed the researchers to calculate the proportion of the sample that was operating illegally. This figure was 6%.

From this percentage, and knowledge of the number of Gas Safe registered engineers, an extrapolation was made to give a figure of approximately 7500 „hard core‟ illegal gas workers.

Note – The calculations are based on these four main types of gas work (fitting gas cookers or hobs, fitting gas fires, fitting gas boilers or doing gas pipework), there will also be other types of work whose inclusion would have increased the number of illegal operators. (E.g. one such category being radiators and had this been included, the proportion of illegal operators could potentially have doubled).

An average number of jobs per year was calculated for each of the four types of gas work and separately for registered and unregistered businesses. (Registered fitters were on average doing more of all the different types of work although there was not a great deal of difference in the number of gas cookers fitted). Unregistered people fitted an average of 21 a year while registered people fitted an average of 27.

In total across the four types of work it was calculated that over 17million jobs were undertaken of which 243,000 (or 1.4%) were carried out by illegal/unregistered gas fitters.

3.1.3 – Current figures

During the first 9 months of operation (Apr – Dec 09), 383 complaints about illegal/unregistered work were visited and investigated by Gas Safe Register. During this period, a total of over 2000 defects were discovered from these unregistered complaints (a mixture of Immediately Dangerous, At Risk & Not to Current Standards faults). This equates to an average of in excess of five gas faults per site investigated.

The safety of these investigations was classified2 in accordance with industry guidance as follows:

16% were Immediately Dangerous (ID); an appliance and or installation is one, which if operated or left connected to a gas supply, is an immediate danger to life or property.

38% were At Risk (AR); an appliance and or installation is one where one or more faults exist and which, as a result, if operated, may in the future constitute a danger to life or property.

41% were Not to Current Standards (NCS); an appliance and or installation that although operating safely, does not comply with the latest standard

1 Research conducted by Accent; 13 August – 7 September 2009. 2 The Gas Industry Unsafe Situations Procedure (6th Ed)

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3.2 – Comments on the investigations process

In the initial survey material, and in the follow-up workshops, it became clear that there was an appetite from a majority of respondents to see the current investigations process work more effectively. There was an expressed desire for improvement – not replacement.
Within the comments received a number of key themes emerged:

  1. Coordination of activity
  2. Coordination of data
  3. Consistency of application
  4. Clarity of purpose
  5. Better communication

There was a significant amount of overlap within these comments, and in some cases the ideas were more developed than in others.

3.2.1 Coordination of activity

A significant number of respondents commented on the number of agencies involved in enforcing the regulations and the „gaps‟ which are seen to exist between them. This led to a number of calls for improved inter-agency working, particularly between the initial investigators (Gas Safe Register) and the HSE.

Better integration was also seen as a way to avoid duplication of effort and make better use of resources. Amongst the options discussed was the possibility of secondment or embedding of HSE Principal Inspectors within other bodies to be onsite to make judgements on the viability of cases for prosecution, leading to quicker and more effective decision– making.

Greater coordination of activity in this way was also seen as an effective way to build greater consistency in approach across different regions. (See also 3.2.3)

Coordination of activity also lends itself to focusing and targeting of resources in specific campaigns.

Interagency working has proved successful in the past. Late in 2009, local initiatives between the registration body and enforcement bodies have shown targeted investigation and enforcement can work. Liaison with HSE and Environmental Health of a local authority within the Home Counties proved very successful in confirming dangerous and unsafe gas maintenance work with suspected private landlords and generated an increase in items for investigation.

Specific geographical areas based on information from Gas Safe Register‟s „risk engine‟ could also be used to target areas of higher levels of unregistered activity.

For example, HSE FOD South West initiated a pilot scheme targeting unregistered/illegal installers (Jan – Jun 05).

This „pilot letter‟ was sent to businesses indicating that they were under investigation for working while unregistered, and giving them the opportunity to sign an enclosed declaration that they would not do such work until and unless they became registered. The offer was only made to those installers who had not previously come to HSE‟s attention; it did not apply to immediately dangerous work. Failure on the part of the installer to sign and return

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the declaration could result in prosecution where the evidence was sufficient. The declaration would be used to support the prosecution.

The sharing of data and activity relating to the investigation, and the subsequent responses from the business being targeted, between the HSE and Gas Safe Register resulted in a more effective prosecution with minimal duplication of effort.

3.2.2 Coordination of data

Better coordination of activity was logically seen to lead to better coordination of the data generated but the respondents recognised that there was currently no single body with a centralised coordination role.

A central coordinating role has been suggested which would be responsible for liaising and working with any other contributors within agreed service level agreement timescales. If adopted, this could be supported by bespoke report formats for all enforcement agencies (HSE as well as local authority Trading Standards; Building Control & Environmental Health departments).

It was also noted that the creation of Service Level Agreements (SLA) for turnaround/timelines of case preparation could be developed to reduce the time taken to gather sufficient case evidence and reduce the current average 18-month time gap between initial investigation and prosecution action in court.

Comments from respondents, and additional anecdotal evidence from contacts with registered businesses, suggests that the time taken for a prosecution is seen as excessive and that it acts as a disincentive for those considering reporting offences.

The creation of this „single case file‟ was seen as a useful and relatively easy to implement improvement which could be made. The registration body was seen by respondents as the most logical agency to pull together the single case file as they are already gathering data as part of the initial investigation.

Having this investigation information in an agreed and accessible format would reduce the need for HSE to duplicate some of the activity as part of their own processes and allow for greater concentration on the later stages of enforcement.

If adopted, no transfer of any formal powers to the registration body would be needed for this to be achieved.

Potential „single case file‟ elements could include (not exhaustive):

Part 1; On-site evidence
Investigation report, including photographic evidence of unsafe gas work Documentation (adverts, receipts, estimate/quote etc)
Collation of voluntary witness statements (Section 9; Criminal Justice Act 1967) Status of investigation/agreed timeline to complete

Part 2; Additional Information as support for HSE and Judiciary
True operational costs relating to legitimate trading businesses (training, assessment, registration etc)
Previous levels of fines levied in similar cases
Clear definitions of gas terminology used e.g. „Immediately Dangerous‟ and „At Risk‟

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Additionally, there was an expressed appetite to coordinate reporting tools. Over 85% wanted „Simplified reporting processes to speed up enforcement actions‟. Many industry players wanted action taken following RIDDOR reporting. At present, not all information contained in submitted F2508G forms is sent to the registration body for information and potential further investigation – be it registered or unregistered gas work.

Due to the numerous forms available within the gas industry, workshop feedback suggested that a „one stop form‟ could be developed for industry to use. This form would contain all relevant gas safety details and be modular in its format – only completing the specific sections applicable to the actual work involved.

This centralised information could then be „triaged‟ to filter and identify unsafe and dangerous gas work for further investigation. This central repository could then be linked to all enforcement bodies for detail of all enforcement actions taken.

3.2.3 Consistency of application

Many respondents reported frustration with what they saw as inconsistent application of enforcement activity – both in the decisions to prosecute and in the penalties applied.

It was recognised by respondents that in some cases this was simply a perception on their part as they did not have access to all aspects of a case which may have been an influencing factor. It was also acknowledged that limited resources and varying levels of relevant experience in different regions may also be a factor.

Further comments around communicating the reasons behind decisions is examined in Section 3.2.5

Respondents also identified potential structural or process changes which they believed would aid consistency. Secondment, or embedding, of HSE Principal Inspectors within other agencies such as the registration body was seen as a potential benefit as it would help ensure a more consistent approach by allowing a Principal Inspector to step back from the inevitable local differences in each office and examine a case purely on the evidence as presented. The development of a single case file would also potentially work in the same way.

3.2.4 Clarity of purpose

There remains some confusion, even amongst the core elements of industry, regarding the role played by the different agencies involved in enforcement and this should continue to be addressed in ongoing communications from all of the relevant bodies.

However, there is significantly greater confusion, or a lack of any awareness, around some of the tools which ultimately drive and support the enforcement process.

A number of respondents expressed confusion and frustration with the tools available to report unsafe or illegal gas work, specifically RIDDOR (Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations) (see results in section 1). For example, there was extremely limited understanding that the primary purpose of RIDDOR was to log information – not to activate an investigation process.

Throughout the various workshops held, it was clear that the majority of attendees had a lack of understanding of the outcome RIDDOR F2508G2 process concerning dangerous gas work that they may encounter (i.e. that the result could lead to either a major injury of death). Industry knows that some things are reported, but not sure as to „what‟ happens, if anything, with that information.

What is currently reportable?

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Gas businesses/engineers are required to report the design, construction, installation, modification or maintenance/servicing in the following situations:

a leakage of gas;
inadequate combustion, or;
inadequate removal of products of the combustion of gas

Anecdotal evidence from the workshop sessions suggests that some businesses appeared to use RIDDOR as a way of „covering‟ themselves for any work that may have been missed by engineers on site. This may explain why some areas are seen to be over-reported.

Whereas smaller businesses did not see the relevance of spending extra administration at the end of the day when they felt that „no practical action would be taken – so why waste time and complete the form?‟

Industry perceives the completion of F2508G2 forms as a way of reporting dangerous gas work to be acted upon and investigated, rather than a statistical reporting tool. Gas Enforcement Review 2010 survey comment; „the process of reporting through RIDDOR is seen as too complex‟. Respondents want to be able to report illegal gas workers but many „do not know how‟.

Feedback in general was that the registration body should be involved with the investigation of any safety issues arising from F2508G2 forms, to give comfort to registered businesses that some action would be taken on grounds of gas safety.

The development of an alternative single reporting tool (see 3.2.2) was seen to offer benefits and to be easy to understand.

3.2.5 Better communication

A recurring source of frustration for respondents, particularly for the sole traders, is that there was little or no opportunity to discover the outcome of a report of illegal or dangerous gas work.
Many comments were taken to the effect that the reporting system was a „black hole‟ and that there were no mechanisms to check whether a report had led to an investigation and, if it had, to the eventual outcome.

The open comments of the industry and stakeholder survey identified a typical comment:

„Improved feedback on the status of an investigation/prosecution to the engineer who lodged the report would encourage greater buy-in by others‟.
There was also a perception that „reports of illegal work from engineers are not followed up or taken seriously‟. Several respondents talk about never hearing anything more about reports they make.

These comments led to suggestion that a system could be developed whereby all reports of potential illegal activity could be tracked by the sender. A simple system would encourage greater reporting if the sender can see that action is taken. This could include:

Traffic light‟ reports on status of investigation to be deliverable (under DPA limits) Creation of anonymous reporting line as an additional means of reporting
Unique case reference and tracking number
Increased transparency, sense of ownership, progress of investigations

Clarity on how decisions are made and the evidence required at each stage

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3.3 Application of penalties

3.3.1 Background – Guidance for enforcing bodies

The HSE „Enforcement Policy Statement‟ (EPS) lays down clear guidelines for enforcement bodies (mainly HSE and local authorities). It says:

„Giving information and advice, issuing improvement or prohibition notices …. are the main means which inspectors use to achieve the broad aim of dealing with serious risks, securing compliance with health and safety law and preventing harm.‟

There are two types of enforcement notice which are made publicly available by HSE (but not local authorities):

Improvement Notice; This says that, in the inspector‟s opinion, a breach of the law has been committed. It will state what needs to be done and by when

Prohibition Notice; This stops work in order to prevent a serious injury occurring.

Written advice such as warning letters (as discussed in 3.1.1) and enforcement notices may be used in court proceedings.

The EPS goes on to say that (in England and Wales): „the decision whether to prosecute should take account of the evidential stage and the relevant public interest factors set down by the Director of Public Prosecutions in the Code for Crown Prosecutors. No prosecution may go ahead unless the prosecutor finds there is sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction, and decides that prosecution would be in the public interest.‟

In Scotland, „…the Procurator Fiscal decides whether to bring a prosecution. This may be on the basis of a recommendation by an enforcing authority…‟

3.3.2 Breakdown of prosecutions

During 2009, the majority of gas related prosecutions carried out by HSE were against unregistered workers; 14 in total, with the remaining nine against landlords who had not safely maintained gas appliances for their tenants.

3.3.2.1 Illegal gas fitters

A summary of HSE prosecutions of illegal gas fitters during 2009 is as follows: Total number of prosecutions = 14
Number of Guilty-Fines = 12
The total fine amount = £18,900 (an average of £1,350)

Total costs awarded = £41,907 (an average of £2,933) Number of Conditional Discharge = 1 (for 2 year period) Number of Custodial Sentences = 1 (for 52 weeks) Number of Community Service Orders = 0

Although the average fine awarded was £1,350, this included only one penalty of £5000. The remaining 13 cases averaged just over £1000 (with costs of just over £1600).

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The average time taken from initial offence (e.g. investigation by the registration body or by HSE with an enforcement notice) to prosecution in court was 18 months for prosecutions completed in court during 2009.
(Shortest = 6 months; Longest = 34 months)

3.3.2.2 Landlords

Key statistics for landlords as follows:
Total number of prosecutions = 9
Number of Guilty-Fines = 7
Total fines = £26,800 (an average of £2,978)
Total costs awarded = £ 37,908 (an average of £4,212) Number of Suspended Custodial Sentences = 1 Number of Custodial Sentences = 1 (16 months)

3.3.2.3 Prohibition and Improvement notices

In addition to prosecutions the following enforcement notices were issued by HSE in relation to contraventions of GSIUR:

Prohibition Notices – 61 issued in total (54 of which relating to illegal gas fitters) Improvement Notices – 68 issued in total (2 of which relating to illegal gas fitters)

Respondents noted in several workshops that in the Isle of Man, the Registration Body has been handed enforcement powers (Warning Letter, Improvement Notice, Prohibition Notice, Formal Caution & Prosecution). In the last 15-months of operation, 12 Notices have been served and one Formal Caution.

As a result of correspondence with unregistered/illegal businesses, the number of registered businesses and engineers registering on the island has increased by approximately 30%. The local Inspector who has a Warrant with powers of enforcement believes that „”this increase is due to the fact that he has been given enforcement powers and these businesses understand that if they break the Law, they will be punished”.

3.3.3 Comments on penalties

Many comments were received the effect that the current deterrent is not sufficient for the crime committed. Although 23 prosecutions is considered a success, the actual outcomes were often questioned by respondents from across the industry.

Specific concerns included:

Lack of real financial penalties handed down by Courts
Court sentencing powers not fully utilised for „health and safety‟ breaches
Most fines do not reflect the actual cost of gas training, registration, technical standards, tools/equipment to carry out gas work safely (leading to the perception that „it pays to work illegally‟)
Custodial sentences often limited or suspended
Community service often limited or non-existent
Lack of local public awareness/promotion of rogue installers who have been prosecuted (e.g. industry would like more „naming and shaming‟)
Lack of compensation awarded to innocent consumer/victim (although this was seen as different from cases where consumers knowingly employed illegal fitters and where many respondents wanted to see them actually being prosecuted too)

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Through the consultation process respondents expressed the view that the penalties available for those breaching gas safety regulations were insufficient – with the majority arriving at this view or having it reinforced by local or trade media coverage of prosecutions.

Closer investigation suggests that in many cases sufficient legislation exists for enforcement on breaches of gas safety through Health & Safety at Work etc. Act (HSAWA) and GSIUR. The Health & Safety (Offences) Act 2008 (commenced 16 Jan 2009) increased the level of available fines in lower Magistrates courts from £5000 to £20,000 in lower courts, although there are only a limited number of occasions where these extended powers have been used.

The aim of these increases was to be in line with the wider Government criminal justice agenda and to be more effective at:

Applying sanctions,
Broadening the range of offences for imprisonment, and;
Be a more effective deterrent against regulatory non-compliance

To meet these aims, and to increase the credibility of the system in the eyes of the industry, a number of potential improvements were identified by respondents:

Providing improved context and information to aid prosecutions

As the level of health and safety fines was seen as „low‟ compared to other criminal acts, the context of each case brought to the courts could contain more detail of all associated costs of training, registration, the average price charged for an installation or a repair etc. Providing this additional data as standard was seen as a potential aid for judiciary by providing context, it was also seen as helping to reduce the burden on the HSE office having to assemble this data locally and on a case by case basis.

This was seen to link to the potential „single case file‟ discussed in Section 3.2.2

Analysis suggests there are sufficient regulations (HSAWA, GSIUR) available, as 100% of prosecutions in 2009 brought by HSE were successful. Industry however perceives the final penalties to be insufficient for the crime committed. Only one Illegal Installer was fined £5000, the remaining 22 prosecutions with an average of just over £1000, with costs also awarded on average just over £1600.

Better information about costs incurred was seen a likely to result in higher fines being levied in the event of a successful prosecution.

Coordination of activities

Joint actions could also be brought with enforcement agencies combining resources. This was seen by respondents as likely to lead to greater consistency and transparency.

Improved cross agency working e.g. with HMRC and Benefits Agency were also seen as a way of increasing the deterrent level.

Publicising of prosecutions

Respondents noted repeatedly that coverage of gas related prosecutions was often focused on the gas industry trade press and there was significant appetite for greater efforts to be made by all agencies involved in prosecutions to target local and, where relevant, national media.

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Options ranged from the creation and promotion of a dedicated identity for all prosecutions of this type e.g. www.hse-gas-prosecutions.com to regular use of advertising space. There was also appetite for coordinating the results of other agency prosecutions e.g. local authorities in a single area – either online or in consumer focused media.

„Naming and shaming‟ of those prosecuted proved to be a divisive topic with many comments reflecting the possibility of it to being applied inappropriately or having unanticipated effects. A consensus emerged that it could be adopted for those convicted of the most serious offences or those who have had multiple convictions.

Highlight the existing powers

In addition to better promotion of prosecutions to the public there was also recognition that the industry itself could be better informed of the potential penalties for breaching regulations.

For example, there was little awareness amongst any of the respondents that potential penalties include the seizure of assets.

Non financial penalties

A points-based system (referred to as the „driving licence‟ model) was also considered with respondents from some of the larger installation and servicing business suggesting that it could be useful way to track ability and anticipate problems when they employ gas fitters on temporary contracts. It was noted by many of the participants that the system could be cumbersome to operate and maintain.

Use of Enforcement Notices

Enforcement Notices are a powerful tool and deterrent against unregistered/illegal and dangerous gas work. Evidence from the Isle of Man suggests that if used and publicised, they act as a real deterrent to Landlords and unregistered/illegal gas workers. Benefits include an increased success if brought to prosecution and if punished, can lead to increased numbers of registered businesses that can then be subsequently monitored.

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4. CONSUMERS AND OTHER PARTIES 4.1 Background

The ultimate purpose behind enforcement of the gas safety regulations is to protect the public from unsafe gas work and consequently the public are seen by all stakeholders as having an important role to play.

However, the information emerging from the industry and consumer surveys suggest there are significant differences between how the public view their own role and how the industry sees the situation.

Throughout the review process respondents from industry, particularly those directly involved with the public on a regular basis agreed that protecting consumers should be of high importance but voiced frustration that the system did not seem to place any emphasis on consumers themselves taking responsibility for aspects of their own safety.

While this may be a long-standing complaint, and one which is not unique to the gas industry, it represents a potential barrier which would need to be broken down if any significant changes to current practices are to be adopted.

4.2 Consumers View

The consumer survey (see Section 1) identified those who had gas appliances in their home and who had had work undertaken recently. In that sense these were „active consumers‟ and were more likely to have a view on how gas safety related to them.

Although there was some variation when it came to identifying the official bodies with roles to play in taking responsibility for gas safety and for enforcing the regulations (the primary bodies named were Trading Standards, Local authorities/government and the Gas Safe Register) there was a good general level of understanding that there were rules to enforce and a recognition of the importance of doing so in the name of public safety. This was the case even amongst those who are not responsible for arranging their own servicing and repair e.g. those in rented housing.

Although consumers reacted positively to a range of options regarding what the enforcing body should do to those found working illegally the one area where they did not respond positively was when the following option was put forward:

“Ask you to pay a penalty for using an illegal gas fitter‟

Only 27% of respondents agreed with this statement. The same group were also asked a follow-on question:

“Do you agree we all have a role to play in stopping illegal and potentially dangerous gas work?”

Over 80% of respondents responded positively to this statement (amongst some age groups the positive response rate was even higher).

The disconnect between these two answers, which suggests that consumers have a role, but should not face a penalty if they do not comply with regulations, represents a challenge when putting forward any potential solutions.

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It does suggest that respondents thought there was a „right answer‟ (that everyone has responsibility for gas safety) but that when presented with a scenario where they may conceivably face a penalty (e.g. knowingly employing an unqualified or unregistered gas fitter) they reject any model which endorses this approach.

4.3 The industry view of consumers

The industry view of consumers as expressed in the survey and the workshops could also be described as jaded.

Many trade respondents talked about consumers being motivated almost exclusively by cost – several presented anecdotes about presenting detailed quotes for work knowing that the potential customer would not examine the scope of the work, or take particular account of the experience or recommendations of the fitter, and would make a decision purely on the basis of the final price.

The view from many registered fitters is that this means they are regularly losing out on work to unregistered gas fitters who do not have the same training and qualifications overheads to recover and that consumers are either unaware of the potential gas safety risks or are choosing to ignore them.

Educating consumers on gas risks, and tying these risks to consumers‟ own decisions was seen by trade respondents as a key element in any plan to change consumer behaviour.

However, just as many consumers notionally accept that „everyone has a responsibility‟ but do not necessarily follow this up with changes in their own behaviour, so many registered gas engineers want to see greater information passed to consumers but are not taking responsibility for doing so.

There was acknowledgment that the change in operator of the mandatory registration scheme has resulted in improved communication to consumers but an appetite to see more done.

Trade respondents were also much more forthright in their views that consumer responsibility should also potentially encompass financial penalties for consumers knowingly employing unqualified fitters. The notion of „naming and shaming‟ consumers provided an interesting parallel to calls for similar action to be taken against fitters who were in breach of regulations but were not seen as a practical way forward in many cases.

There was more support for publicising customer actions when the consumer is a landlord and there are more common cases where landlords are prosecuted for failing in their duties of care.

4.4 Additional solutions

While the majority of respondents (trade and consumer) recognised the key role that education has to play in the enforcement of gas safety there was also discussion of alternative solutions.

Just as there is seen to be potential benefit in offering extended warranties and insurance to those who can demonstrate that appliances are fitted and maintained correctly by qualified engineers so there was also discussion about seeking further engagement from the insurance sector on how domestic home insurance policies may be cancelled if it could be shown that work which caused damage (and therefore a claim) was undertaken by an unqualified fitter.

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Initial investigations suggest that this approach would have only limited support from the insurance sector and would be difficult to implement.

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ENFORCEMENT REVIEW – APPENDICES
Industry and stakeholder survey – Breakdown of verbatim comments

The format of the trade survey allowed verbatim comments to be recorded. In total 3,355 comments were received in the trade survey.

A desk-based analysis of these verbatim comments was undertaken and comments organised into representative and themed summary statements to reflect the balance of the views expressed. A simple quantative analysis of the themed comments was also undertaken to establish the most frequently occurring comments.

This number of verbatim comments will inevitably generate a great deal of repetition or broadly similar viewpoints on a number of subjects, although sometimes with the emphasis on different elements and this summary is intended to draw out summary comments around the different points raised within each theme.

Note – Some of the issues raised fall outside of the scope of a review of enforcement, but may reflect a more general perception on the interlinked and interdependent nature of any effective response within the industry.

It is not intended to put „words into the mouths‟ of the respondents and the tone of the summaries is neutral whereas the original comment may have been more strident. Directly quoted answers from the survey will be indicated by the use of double quotation marks (“…”)

In order to maintain alignment with the earlier analysis on the verbatim comments the summary comments will be grouped within their themes. In some cases this may result in some summary comments appearing in more than one section, sometimes with a different emphasis.

The themes are ordered as in the table in Section 1.4.1.1 of the main report to reflect the number of comments on each theme.

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1. Sale of appliances
There is a strong appetite to restrict sales to registered businesses but there are a

number of streams sitting beneath this:

Legislative change to restrict sales (e.g. TV licensing), manufacturers and retailers linking the sale to registered engineers to appliance warranties, all appliance sales to be registered to allow for tracking, gas appliances should be sealed (similar to electric meters) with only registered engineers able to break and remake the seal.

A few respondents would not restrict the actual sale but would only allow for collection of the appliance by a registered business prior to installation. Similarly, several respondents suggested requesting name and address details from any purchaser who could not produce a Gas Safe ID card.

A smaller number do express concern about restricting sales as a limitation on their broader rights.

There is also appetite for „persuasion‟ rather than legislation aimed at retailers.

There are several requests for improved warning notices and information in retailers relating to gas safety. There is also appetite for inspectors to spend time in the DIY sheds to educate consumers.

Make annual gas safety check a mandatory requirement for homeowners – production of a valid safety certificate should be tied to home insurance.

Other plumbing supplies not safe or suitable for gas use should be marked „not for gas use‟.

Improve public awareness of the risks as a way of reducing sales to non-registered or fitting by non-competent.

Improved follow-up of Landlord Gas Safety certificates by local authorities to identify illegally installed appliances.

There is significant appetite for customers to share legal responsibility when an illegal installation is identified.

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2. Penalties
Several respondents report frustration at engineers being unable to report illegal work

they encounter directly and being dependent on the customer doing it.

A number of respondents want to see the penalty imposed to be directly related to the severity of the offence committed and for registered engineers to be treated differently from illegal workers. An enforcement notice is not seen as being effective against someone already working illegally.

There was perceived inconsistency in the approach taken by different regional HSE offices when it came to prosecutions.

It was noted that currently consumers have to pay for remedial work carried out by illegal workers – there are calls for this to change and for the fines levied on illegal workers to be used to reimburse consumers.

A system of fines (similar to motoring offences) were mooted – “you either go for training and assessment or you go to court and get it with a big fine”.

Fines are generally seen as too small and not enough of a deterrent.
The view is that there should be a single body responsible for enforcement, with many respondents indicating this should be Gas Safe Register.

Naming and shaming is a much mentioned option, although there is some caution about how it should be used against registered businesses that “may just have made a mistake”.

Prison sentences should be considered, but only for the most serious offences such as those involving loss of life.

Several respondents who serve as JPs noted that they can only fine illegal gas workers „within their means‟ and cannot take into account what they may have earned in the past. There appears to be limited understanding of this in the broader audience.

There are recurring requests for all standards and normative documents to be made freely available.

Star ratings or rankings for registered businesses, which would indicate level of competence or take into account any complaints against them, are mentioned.

Confiscation of illegal gas workers tools or vehicles is suggested. There are seen to be too many bodies involved in enforcement. Spot checks on installations are mentioned frequently.

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3. Consumer
Restricting sales of appliances to registered engineers is the dominant comment

More broadly, respondents want consumers to be better educated around gas, and to take more responsibility for the work that they commission in their homes. This includes improving their knowledge of the risks of using illegal engineers and the importance of asking for (and checking) an ID card.

There is a perception that customers are price-sensitive rather than concerned with quality or safety and that registered engineers are undercut by illegals.

Continuing to educate consumers on the existence and role of the Gas Safe Register is a recurring comment. There are also concerns that the public still associate the CORGI name with the operation of the register. There is a desire to see continued/increased consumer awareness campaigns.

Some respondents also called for financial penalties for consumers who knowingly use illegal gas workers or to have a duty to hold or lodge paperwork with a relevant authority indicating that work was carried out by an appropriately qualified engineer.

Several also mentioned the possibility of invalidating home insurance payouts if it was established the work was carried out by an illegal gas worker.

Many respondents would also like to see more information published about prosecutions in consumer, not trade, publications although there were mixed responses to the idea of „naming and shaming‟ with some calling for mandatory re-training rather than prosecution for registered engineers who have been found at fault.

There is a perception that more attention is paid to monitoring registered engineers than on identifying illegal workers.

There is a desire to make it easier for registered engineers to report illegal work rather than depending upon the customer to do it.

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4. Illegal workers

The need to „do more‟ about illegal working is the overwhelmingly dominant theme, although there are a variety of definitions as to who exactly this refers to and the exact nature of the response.

The costs of registration and associated training are seen as a barrier to people working legally. Some registered engineers feel the authorities spend more time focused on policing them than pursuing illegal workers. (“You have the wrong people in your sights.”)

Fines at their current level are not seen to be a strong disincentive to working illegally – several respondents pointed out that they are significantly less than the costs of undertaking training.

Consumers are seen to share some responsibility for illegal working if they knowingly employ someone who is unregistered – a number of respondents would like to see customers fined for knowingly employing illegal gas workers.

Engineers would like to be able to report illegal or dangerous work directly rather than the report coming from the consumer. Several also express concerns that when an illegal installation is reported nothing is seen to be done about it. A smaller number also mention a „reward‟ for those reporting illegal gas works when they encounter it.

Individual engineers who are only registered through their employer, but who are „moonlighting‟ are identified as a risk as they are likely to be uninsured.

Working outside of scope, and the signing off of work done by illegal workers, is also perceived as a problem.

Unique coding/reference numbers on boilers which must be tied to a registration number as part of the commissioning process is seen as a way to limit opportunities for illegals.

Limiting or cancelling the warranties on appliances not notified is also suggested. Registered engineers who make mistakes (“We‟re all human”) are seen as very different

from those working illegally and should receive a different and proportionate response. Naming and shaming is mentioned often, but mainly for persistent/more dangerous

offenders.

Several respondents mentioned „recycling‟ the money from fines back into the register to bring down the costs of their fees as an incentive/reward for reporting illegal activity.

Many respondents want to see the results of prosecution publicised more widely – local papers and posters in merchants are mentioned as potential options. The creation of a dedicated website listing prosecutions was also suggested.

Limiting the sales of appliances to registered businesses is suggested by many respondents.

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5. Media

Many respondents would like to see continued and increased media presence, including prime time advertising. There is also significant appetite for increased advertising in local and national newspapers to focus on increasing brand awareness and highlighting prosecutions against illegal workers.

Several respondents would like to see more focus on those operating illegally rather than on registered businesses.

A number of respondents highlighted their positive view of the local technical road shows which were run by Corgi and expressed a desire for something similar to be run by Gas Safe Register to facilitate local discussions.

Businesses directories should do more to check adverts from businesses claiming to be Gas Safe registered.

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6. Landlords

Many respondents indicate that they think most landlords are aware of the need to use registered businesses and to have regular safety checks undertaken. However, many have doubts about the depth of understanding or the level of compliance and expressed the view that there is too much willingness to cut corners in order to save money.

Enforcement of the rules could be improved with more auditing of the CP12 certificates. Having a register of landlords and/or rented property is suggested by a number of

respondents.

Some respondents expressed the view that tenants and/or landlords from ethnic minorities have a lower level of awareness of the regulations.

More could be done to increase tenants‟ awareness of their rights.
Several respondents indicated that landlords should be held legally accountable if the use illegal gas workers.

Many report hearing about registered engineers signing off work undertaken by illegal workers, a smaller number indicate they have direct personal experience of this.

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7. Training
Much of the focus is on registered engineers and their scope of work rather than on

getting unregistered engineers onto the register in the first place.
There is a desire for better access to grants and other funding for training.

There is a suspicion that many of the training companies are motivated by profit and not focused on high quality, safety-focused training.

A three year apprenticeship is still seen by many respondents as the only „proper‟ training. A number of respondents still see Corgi and/or Gas safe as the body responsible for training.

A number of respondents also complain about the amount of training they have to undertake – shorter refresher courses rather than retaking ACS every five years is suggested.

There is a general frustration with the current ACS arrangements – cost, time, format, relevance etc.

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8. Authorities

Local Authorities and Building Control departments are mentioned often but opinion is split: some respondents want to see them with enhanced responsibility for investigating and/or approving gas work while others do not. Many also suggest that they lack the resources, systems and specialist knowledge to adequately take on an extended role in their current configuration.

There is also concern about the lack of public understanding of their role and who to contact with an enquiry.

Some similar concerns are also voiced about Environmental Health Officers.
A recurring theme is concern about the number of agencies involved, and the lack of clarity on the specific role each has to play.

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9. Role to play

The majority of respondents say everyone has a role to play in gas safety although several see certain agencies as having lead roles e.g. Gas Safe. There is a desire for greater clarity on who is responsible for specific action and some appetite to the devolution of powers to third parties if they have the appropriate skills and experience to deal with them.

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10. HSE/Government
There is a persistent, if low level, layer of cynicism about the role of regulation.

A number of respondents identify HSE and Gas Safe as the appropriate agencies to carry out prosecutions (but do not always make the distinction between the two).

There is a lack of enthusiasm for involving local authorities as they are not seen to have the required knowledge or experience.

Improved feedback on the status of an investigation/prosecution to the engineer who lodged the report would encourage greater buy-in by others.

Some respondents make the distinction between „mistakes‟ made by registered engineers who should be dealt with by improving training and „cowboys‟ who should be prosecuted to the limit of the law.

There is concern about incidents or installations reported to HSE and/or Gas Safe and either dismissed or not apparently followed up.

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11. Education
Almost all respondents recognised the importance of educating anyone who is involved in

the industry, although the definition of education varied.
A dominant theme is the importance of improving consumer knowledge of the risks

around gas, as well as making it clearer on how to find and check a registered engineer.

Education aimed at those in the industry was often seen to cross over with formal training – comments highlight the importance of good technical awareness but there was concern about an increasing cost or administrative burden.

There was some comment about the quality of some training providers and the perceived complexity of the qualifications system.

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12. Reporting illegal work

There is a perception that reports of illegal work from engineers are not followed up or taken seriously. Several respondents talk about never hearing anything more about reports they make.

Lack of cooperation from householders is seen as a serious impediment to reporting and reduces engineer‟s willingness to make the report. The requirement for the consumer to make the complaint is seen to be another barrier.

The process of reporting through RIDDOR is seen as too complex.
Respondents want to be able to report illegal gas workers but many do not know how. There are repeated mentions of the time it takes for an investigation to complete.

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13. Removal

Removing a business from the Register may simply drive them underground – better to retrain and educate them. Removal from the Register is only an effective sanction against those currently operating legally – the unregistered don‟t care.

Consumers who knowingly use an illegal gas worker should share responsibility. Currently investigations take too long.

The requirement to leave a dangerous installation shut off rather than repaired inconveniences the customer and the registered business who finds it.
Several respondents mention a „three strikes and you‟re out‟ rule.

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14. Legislation

Opinion is almost equally split between those who say the existing legislation creates too much of a burden on the registered engineer and those who want to see legislation tightened.

Several have indicated that regulations should be written in clearer English to aid understanding and that all regulations should be made freely available in their entirety rather than for sale in separate documentation.

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15. Manufacturers

A large number of correspondents want to see the sale of appliances limited to Gas Safe registered engineers or businesses – several also want to see a link between the purchase of the appliance and the warranty for the appliance.

Prominent messaging on the appliance packaging or the appliance itself could highlight the importance of using a registered engineer to install the appliance.

There is some support for technical solutions which would shut down the boiler if it is not serviced by a registered engineer.

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16. Insurance

Several respondents noted that, as they pay for training and Public Liability insurance, their costs will automatically be higher than those who are unregistered or uninsured.

Many respondents want householder‟s home insurance to be cancelled or invalidated if they try to claim for costs if they have used an illegal gas worker. There are related comments asking for insurance companies to take the responsibility for contacting consumers to remind them to use registered businesses and to make the use of registered businesses to be a mandatory element of the policy.

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Visit: www.gassaferegister.co.uk for for information.

 

 

 
 

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