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ACS Committee replaced after gas safety review

The 16-member ACS (Accredited Certification Scheme) Committee has been replaced by an eight-member body called the ACS Executive Committee, H&V News has learned.

The Executive Committee will comprise a chair and secretariat, like its predecessor. However, it will consist of two member representatives from the certification bodies, the standards control bodies, employers, and two ACS certified persons.

The ACS Scheme was introduced in 1998 as a means for gas fitting operatives to demonstrate their competence to undertake gas work safely.

Despite widespread support for the ACS Scheme, the most recent review of the domestic gas safety regime said the scheme’s assessments and its registration processes were considered by installers to be rigid, prescriptive and “too onerous” to the extent they could discourage registration.
 
In addition, the industry has voiced concern that ACS is being used to provide an inappropriate route into the sector to people without the necessary breadth of practical experience.

Last month we reported that the ACS Scheme Committee is to undertake a review of ACS in order to address these concerns. The Executive Committee, chaired by John Clarke OBE, was set up to develop ways of improving the scheme’s standards of service and become more customer-focused, he said.

Mr Clarke added: “The Executive Committee’s focus will be on developing integrated skills, building on the core priority of safety through technical competence, supplemented by skills which in the past were acquired by ‘working beside Fred’.”

“We aim to develop an assessment which provides operatives with the skills to assess the practical options of the job, so that they can provide and complete a service to the satisfaction of the client.”

The new body also aims to be representative of the industry and a quicker decision-maker. Explaining the rationale behind the creation of the smaller group, Richard Payne chairman of the Association of Personnel Certification Bodies (ACPB) said: 'The APCB believes that the structure and focus of the newly formed Executive Committee will provide a dynamic decision making process more responsive to industry needs, as well as ensuring that ACS continues to provide a robust mechanism for assessing gas safety competence, whilst continuing to minimise the burden on the industry and individual installer.'

Tony Brunton, chair of the Industry Liaison Group (ILG) and one of two members of the Executive Committee representing Certificated Persons, explained: “When the larger ACS Scheme Committee met what became apparent was that, as with all groups of a certain size, debating issues and finding mutually acceptable dates for meetings was delaying decision making and creating problems.

“The Executive Committee is designed to be a strategy development and decision-making body processing the outcomes of work done by the Certification Committee and the ILG in response to demands from Government, industry and consumers to address issues of competence and safety. It should not be a body for extended technical debates on very specific issues.

It will examine the industry and its peripherals and develop solutions to the perceived complexity and extent of the ACS scheme by involving the CC and the ILG in a full and frank review of the scheme to identify any areas of duplication of assessment or overlap of other schemes. This should allow both the financial cost and time requirement to be reduced. The Executive Committee is about managing the ACS scheme for the betterment of the entire industry.”

He added: “Installers have never had an input into the ACS Scheme before, and I think the involvement of the installer community, through the ILG, is the first step to remedying some of the problems that have beset ACS for far too long.”

Commenting on whether the new body would be an effective mechanism for change, Bob Towse, HVCA head of technical and safety, said: “The jury’s still out on that. We’re hoping that the Executive Committee will start to deliver a package [of reforms] that reflects the wants of the industry. I’m also hoping the Executive Committee will do a root-and-branch review of ACS and deliver a far more focused scheme than the one that we have at present. If that happens, the HVCA will be fully behind it.”