HSE has backed retaining Capita as the sole provider of the register for an additional five years as part of a contract that would require a new approach to inspection numbers
Capita has been identified by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) as the preferred bidder to operate the Gas Safe Register under a contract that would see the company retaining responsibility for the programme for an additional five years.
HSE said that the Capita Gas Registration and Ancillary Services (CGRAS) organisation was its main choice following a tender process that launched earlier this year to maintain the official register for engineers that are licensed to perform work on gas systems.
Some trade bodies have welcomed the decision to retain continuity in the existing register system, despite broader stakeholder concerns around the number of prosecutions undertaken by Capita over the course of the current contract and calls for great accountability to the HVAC sector.
The revised contract, which will include a number of additional requirements to be performed by CGRAS, is expected to commence from April 1, 2019 and will end on March 31, 2024.
Alongside providing consumer access to the list of registered engineers and offering a technical helpline to the industry, the new contract will continue to require an inspection regime is in place to monitor competency and sanction unsafe gas work.
Implementing a single Gas Safe Register service across Great Britain and Northern Ireland and enabling engineers that are listed to better access data around their inspection history and risk ratings are among key changes to be introduced under the new five-year agreement.
The contract will also require Capita to push forward with looking at student registration, as well as introduce an advisory panel that includes industry representation to ensure better engagement on issues concerning the register, particularly with small companies.
Another major revision will be new inspection targets that is expected to see a 20 per cent rise in assessments by the end of the five-year agreement when compared to the first year of the contract.
HSE said a “risk-based” system will be introduced to focus on more pressing concerns around inspection.
HSE regulation director Philip White said that the invitation to tender for the new five-year contract resulted in several strong bids being received to oversee the work.
Mr White said, “The bid from Capita/CGRAS was the strongest on cost and quality and we are confident they will continue to raise the standards of gas safety and provide a gas safe home for everyone.”
He added that the management of the existing contract by Capita over the last nine years had helped secure the group the revised contract that HSE would continue to monitor concerning performance.
Mr White said: “We will continue to employ a thorough governance process, including key performance indicators and service level agreements with potential financial penalties to manage the contract closely to ensure services are delivered in a cost-effective manner and the needs of gas engineers and consumers are met.”
HSE said that organisations and individuals already registered under the scheme would not be impacted by the switch to a new contract. In total, 132,000 engineers and 75,000 companies are currently register under the scheme, which is funded largely by registration fees and other charges for building regulation notices, according to the HSE.
Heating and Hotwater Industry Council (HHIC) director Stewart Clements said he was pleased with the announcement in ensuring continuity in delivering the contract going forward.
Mr Clements said, “Providers of the Gas Safe Register play a critical role in maintaining safety within the gas industry. The core functions of this new contract will remain the same - maintain the register, check and monitor engineer competence etc. With some service changes.”
He added, “We look forward to building upon our existing, successful relationship with the Gas Safe Register, to continually raise standards of gas safety and awareness amongst consumers of the need to, always use a competent Gas Safe registered engineer.’
Speaking shortly after launch of the new contract tender earlier this year, former Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering (CIPHE) president Paul Williams expressed some concern over a lack of prosecutions undertaken by Capita in managing the register. He argued that the concerns were principally in the case of larger companies.
Mr Williams said he was also wary of how some of the proposed changes under the new agreement will be implemented, particularly the proposed changes around introducing mandatory student registration put forward under the proposed new five-year contract. One specific concern being whether the requirements will apply to full-time students alone, or via other training being offered too.
Other industry stakeholders at the time expressed hope that the revised contract would realise aims to ensure better interaction with industry on key issues, while also ensuring that an increased number of inspectors are in place to carry out inspection work.