Gas Safety Week
With winter fast approaching and Gas Safety Week taking place from the 15th to the 21st of September, we met with Gas Safe registered engineer Steve Sparta to quiz him on his extensive knowledge of gas safety in rental properties.
Q. Why is a gas safety certificate required for a rental property?
A. After a series of carbon monoxide related fatalities, Gas Safety Regulations now state that any landlord is legally required to obtain a gas safety certificate from a registered gas safety engineer. This provision ensures that any gas equipment that is intended for use on domestic premises is of a satisfactory standard of safety.
Q. Why is there a register of Gas Safe Engineers?
The Gas Safe Register carries out a variety of roles. Firstly it aims to raise public awareness of gas safety and the gas register and provides facilities for the reporting of gas work. It also manages inspections and helps give assurance to the public that all of its registered engineers are fully certified and competent to carry out any work done to a high standard. Further, it also provides technical support and standards updates to their listed engineers.
Gas Safety Regulations state that landlords must only use a Gas Safe registered engineer for maintenance and safety checks on gas equipment. All listed engineers will have their qualifications clearly marked on the back of their Gas Safe Registration Card. If you have any suspicions that your engineer is not registered or you have concerns relating to the quality of their work then Gas Safe should be contacted immediately so that the necessary checks can be made.
Q. As a contractor what do you have to do to get your name on the Gas Safe Register?
If an engineer has experience in the gas industry or related fields, they may be able to follow the Nationally Accredited Certification Scheme route to registration. However if they have little or no experience a more formal qualification such as the National Vocational Qualification in Gas Installation and Maintenance at level 2 or 3 would be required. After qualifying, new engineers may be placed on a probationary period where they must notify the Gas Safe Register of any gas work that they carry out.
Q. What qualifies a gas appliance to be unsafe and what are the signs to look out for?
Common sense should be applied when looking at the safety of gas appliances and there are a number of quick visual checks that can be made by even an uneducated eye. Signs such as occupants complaining of headaches, black staining around a gas boiler, a flame that is not blue on a gas cooker or flames buckling down towards the burner on a gas fire as opposed to standing proud towards the chimney would all indicate that there is a problem. The recommended course of action should any of these signs be present would be to turn off the gas supply and contact a registered Gas Safe engineer. A free testing service can also be contacted should a problem be suspected on 0800 111999.
A gas fire can be tested by putting it on maximum heat for 10 minutes. If during this time anybody complains of feeling unwell a small mirror should be held above the fire. If there is any condensation evident on the mirror after doing so then it is highly likely that the appliance is leaking fumes.
If upon inspection by an engineer a gas boiler has been found to have been fitted incorrectly, that engineer will then be obliged to inform Gas Safe and a RIDDOR (Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013) will be completed to show that the appliance has not been fitted to a competent standard.
Q. What is the most dangerous situation that you have ever experienced?
After reports of a gas leak at 2 am in Marston, I went out to the property to investigate further. After a smell of gas had been noticed, the resident family turned the meter off and evacuated the home. Despite the electronic test meter showing a high level of gas present on the top floor of the property, the lower floor reading was far lower. Puzzled by this, a gas sensor was put through the letter box of the house next door belonging to an elderly lady. Worryingly the reading so high it went off of the scale. After looking through the letter box and into the house, I could see that one of the rings of the cooker was lit. A particularly dangerous situation unfolded: had the elderly home owner be awoken and happen to turn a light on the house would have blown up. The emergency services were all alerted and road diggers successfully isolated the gas outside. The attending police officers and paramedics managed to climb through the upstairs window and rescue the occupier.
Q. What advice would you give to a tenant or a landlord who suspects that their property is not gas safe?
For the interest of safety, the individual would be best advised to contact a registered Gas Safe engineer immediately and shut off all gas appliances. It is important to note that the landlord is responsible for matters relating to gas safety and must be able to present their tenant with a current Gas Safety record should it be requested.
Q. What is one thing would you advise a tenant to have in their property to improve gas safety.
Carbon Monoxide (CO) is particularly dangerous due to it being invisible with no smell or taste and so it is therefore advisable that a CO detector is fitted. It is important to note that smoke alarms DO NOT detect carbon monoxide. A detector should be fitted to each room with a gas appliance. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions on sitting, testing and replacing the alarm.
Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headaches, dizziness, nausea, breathlessness, collapse and loss of consciousness.