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Audit trail saves the day

I was approached by a service engineer who found himself faced with sorting out a large number of oil-fired appliances that provided space heating and domestic hot water on a rural site that contained a large number of buildings. The only problem was that no technical information on the appliances appeared to be available.

Having got the name of the manufacturer, Beaumont, I approached them and within four hours they were able to provide a data file for each appliance containing the complete details of the appliances in question, the dates of installation, the design brief and technical specification. They were also able to provide an installation and servicing manual, and told us that if they could be of any further help all we had to do was ask.

The reason I am flagging this up is because for some time now I have been concerned at the number of legal actions in which contractors have been unable to defend themselves because they have not created a proper audit trail, relying instead on others and then finding it has not happened. The case outlined above could have cost the organisation a significant sum of money if Beaumont hadn’t kept such brilliant records.

The reason for this is that the direct-fired hot water units appeared to be supplied with kerosene when they were designed for 35 sec gas oil and were costing a fortune to run, and were up for possible replacement if this could not be sorted. To replace four such units could cost in the order of £200,000, but they will now be able to set the units up properly and reduce the running costs significantly.

Replacing appliances rather than sorting the problem is happening more often now, rather than just being the odd isolated incident. The service engineer told me that the whole 26 appliances were proving to be a serious problem because no information was available and the standard of servicing prior to his arrival had not been the best.

In March of this year I uncovered the same situation involving a number of high-end residential properties in London, which resulted in the service provider losing the contract. So my questions are: how extensive is this? What is the real cost to society? And should we be looking at it in more detail?

Tony Brunton
IEng, MIPlantE, MSOE, LCGI, FCIPHE, RP
Master Plumber