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ACS system under review after industry concerns

The ACS Committee is to undertake a review of the ACS scheme in order to address some of the concerns raised by the industry and by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) review of domestic gas safety.


The news was revealed by David Wilson, secretary to the ACS Scheme Committee, after the assessment system and standards were criticized for being an insufficient “recogniser of competency and skill”.


Many installers argue that the current ACS scheme engenders an approach whereby trainees learn just enough to get through the assessment.


Because they are not encouraged to understand the implications and concepts behind the standards that they are working to, problems arise when the trainee is faced with variants on a heating system.


This ongoing criticism surfaced after Blane Judd, chief executive and secretary of the Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering, revealed (see Installer and Apprentice arrested over CO death) that there were circumstances in which an apprentice heating engineer could face criminal charges for faulty gas installation work.


Prior to his statement, the consensus among the industry was that since an apprentice is not fully qualified while under training, he or she is not responsible for an installation. Ultimate responsibility lies with the supervising CORGI-registered heating engineer.


The revelation provoked outrage from Tony Brunton, chairman of the Association of Registered Gas Installers chairman: “If we’ve reached the point where an apprentice can be charged with gross negligence and manslaughter because they’ve completed their ACS qualification and become CORGI-registered, then it only goes to prove what we, and other organisations like us, have been saying for a while now. And that is that academia is no recogniser of competency and skill,” Mr Brunton said.


“This is not the first time we’ve come across the issue of incompetency among operatives who’ve passed the ACS. We’ve had to deal with many complaints from installers who tell us that they are working with people who have passed the assessment but, because they don’t have enough on-the-job hands on experience, do not possess the required level of competence and skill to install a system correctly.


In an admission that the criticism had validity, Mr Wilson, from the ACS, said: “The market place for installers has changed over the last 10 to 20 years and the training regimes have also changed as a result. What we’re seeing now is that some of the people who are taking ACS assessments for the first time do not always have the same breadth of practical experience as the people who took ACS assessments when the scheme was first introduced some seven years ago. We have to remember, however, that ACS is about assessing gas safety competence and not about wider experience or training.


“There are two things that are happening at the moment. When the HSE appoint someone later this year to run the new Gas Registration Scheme one of the things in the specification is for the new body to undertake a review of the gas safety criteria for registration. This, of course, has an interface with ACS. At the same time, we are undertaking an internal review of the ACS system to see what, if any, changes might be appropriate in terms of addressing some of the issues raised by the HSE review of domestic gas safety and by the industry.”