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The Gas Safe Register has recently published The Decade Review, an independent report on the state of the UK’s gas industry. Sole traders, SMEs, training and certification bodies, manufacturers and energy companies were all invited to take part. They were given the opportunity to reflect on their experience of the industry over the last decade and share their concerns and thoughts on the future. Gas Safe Register was set up in April 2009 to police the standard of work carried out by its members and root out illegal installers. Since Gas Safe Register took over the industry’s registration scheme there has been an increase in registered gas businesses; from 54,000 in 2009 to 74,000 today. Its other task is to increase public awareness of gas safety issues. To do this it runs advertising campaigns, has set up an annual Gas Safety Week and introduced story-lines relating to gas safety into popular soap operas, all to help get the message across.
How have things changed over the last decade?
Most of those who contributed to the Decade Review 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
What do gas fitters worry about?
The risks posed by fast-track training which, in the past, has offered learners insufficient practical experience. The potential for those with insufficient experience working in the sector will be reduced now that the improved ACS standards and new Managed Learning Programme have been brought in. Training for new entrants will be more rigorous and there will be a greater emphasis on practical instruction and supervised on-site experience. For more information on MLP, please click here
An aging workforce and the challenges of recruiting younger workers. The average age for a gas engineer age 55. With those of that age, beginning to think about retirement, there aren’t enough younger engineers coming to fill the gap. It’s recognised that 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 plug the skills gap.
Technology and red tape
The challenges of keeping up with new technology and red tape. Engineers in focus groups discussed the 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.
Low cost illegal fitters
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 trying to get work done on the cheap by employing illegal gas fitters. 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 offers 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. If you’d like to read the report for yourself, please click here.