Ten year's of the Gas Safe Register

15 Dec 2017

The Gas Safe Register has recently published The Decade Review, an independent report it commissioned the research company, Accent, to undertaken on its behalf. The report offers a review of the state of UK’s gas industry and outlines changes that have been made since the  creation of Gas Safe Register in April 2009. Participants of the new survey and focus groups were invited to raise their current concerns, review how things have changed and over the past 10 years and to look at the challenges that lie ahead for the gas industry.

The Gas Safe Register was keen to involve the whole industry and invited sole traders and SMEs, training and certification bodies, manufacturers and the energy companies to take part. Each sector was given the opportunity to reflect on their experience and share views and perspectives.

Improvements over the last decade

The chief area of improvement was gas safety and it was generally agreed that Gas Safe Register has been successful in policing the standard of work carried out by its members and rooting out illegal installers. Since the Gas Safe Register took over from Corgi in 2009 there has been an increase in registered gas businesses; from 54,000 in 2009 to 74,000 today.

The Gas Safe Register’s other remit is to increase public awareness of gas safety issues with advertising campaigns, the establishment of their annual Gas Safety Week and even the introduction of story-lines relating to gas safety in popular soap operas to get the message across.

Most Decade Review participants believe the gas industry is currently safer than it has ever been and this is due to a number of different factors:

  • Increased public awareness of issues relating to gas safety
  • The wider use of carbon monoxide alarms
  • Newer, better quality appliances
  • Greater focus on engineer training and assessment
  • Stronger guidance and regulation enforcement

Areas of concern

Concerns raised in the report included:

The inadequacies of fast-track training which in the past has offered learners insufficient practical experience.  However, the training bodies reported a reluctance amongst learners looking to retrain or enter the gas industry to undertake long courses or apprenticeship as they want to start earning a proper wage as quickly as possible.

The introduction, on 1st October 2017, of the improved ACS standards and new Managed Learning Programme will address these shortfalls. For new entrants there will be more rigorous training, a greater emphasis on practical instruction and supervised on-site experience, ensuring the good reputation of the sector is maintained going forward. For more information on MLP, please click here.

Some of the training bodies felt that Gas Safe Register could become more visible during the training process – and perhaps even endorse the learning pathway.

  • An aging workforce and the challenges of recruiting younger workers. The median engineer age is now 55 – the same age at which some engineers begin to retire and leave the Register. The peak age for retirement is between 60 and 65.

The building services sector as a whole is facing a shortfall in new talent, but Government initiatives to encourage the take-up of ‘Trailblazer’ apprenticeships and the introduction of new ‘T Levels’, which will encourage practical learning for 16-19 year-olds should help fill the gap. It is recognised that the workforce needs to be replenished as more experienced engineers leave or retire.

  • The challenges of keeping up with new technology and red tape.

Engineers in focus groups discussed the specific technological changes that had affected their work and the gas industry, such as the ability to operate a boiler remotely. It was felt that frequent upgrades to equipment can lead to difficulties in keeping up to speed.  Some of the older fitters were also irked by the increase in paperwork and record-keeping.

  • The pressure to keep costs low.

This was of most concern to younger fitters who were establishing themselves and aware of increased competition. Eight out of ten engineers who expressed concerns about gas safety blamed customers who they felt were trying to get work done on the cheap by employing illegal gas fitters. Gas Safe Register’s national investigations team protects the public from unsafe work by tracking down illegal gas workers. Engineers have a responsibility to encourage their customers to go to Gas Safe Register to help them find registered installers and to always check their installer’s ID card to be sure they are registered with the scheme.

The report has brought a range of interesting topics to the fore and by reflecting the current state of the industry, it offers up real food for thought. More than half of the gas engineers poled felt that the gas industry has improved over the last ten years and eight out of ten engineers believe Gas Register is doing a good job, fulfilling its remit.  If you’d like to read the report for yourself, please click here.