Managing gas safety in the public sector
Gas safety is of interest and importance to everyone, and serious carbon monoxide incidents often occupy the front page of H&V News (see 17 March 2010 and 7 April 2010). Landlords in particular have a legal obligation on gas safety, and in the public sector this is a primary concern for registered social landlords such as housing associations and local councils.
The landlord’s duties are described in the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998. Regulation 36 requires landlords to maintain in a safe condition their gas appliances, pipework and flues (usually by annual servicing), and carry out annual gas safety checks on the gas appliances and flues, issuing a landlord’s gas safety record to the tenant.
Compliance must be 100 per cent. All dwellings must have gas safety checks no later than one year from the date of the last inspection, and any outstanding safety issues dealt with. RSLs also have to show how they know this to the audit commission, which periodically makes an inspection visit to evaluate performance on compliance (amongst other things).
While the landlord cannot contract out their legal responsibility to fulfil gas safety duties, RSLs usually tender contracts or partnering arrangements with localcontractors to carry out the servicing and gas safety checks.
The need for 100 per cent compliance means there are some key features that an RSL is looking for in a contractor.
Good data management and clear communication are crucial. The contractor needs to update the compliance data and communicate it to the RSL on a regular basis. Some information needs to be reported on a daily basis such as the addresses where the engineer was not able to gain access, as this triggers a procedure of steps to be carried out by the landlord and the contractor for gaining access. A gas appliance shut-down list also needs to be passed to the landlord on a daily basis for properties where appliances have been deemed unsafe.
Other information, such as progress towards 100 per cent compliance, can be returned monthly or weekly. The information can be updated via spreadsheets and regular meetings between contractor and landlord.
Quality control cannot be forgotten in the drive by the contractor to keep up with the RSL’s often tight schedule for delivering 100 per cent compliance. Checking the accuracy of the completed gas safety record form, and quality auditing of the completed service work and the competence of the engineers who carry it out, is also a vital aspect of managing gas safety, to be carried out by both contactor and RSL.
Evans Joojo-Richards is a gas audit manager for a housing association and an NVQ assessor