At the All Party Parliamentary Carbon Monoxide Group seminar on “Improving gas safety in social housing” on 12 June 2013, the views of CORGI Technical Services and the Association of Gas Safety Managers (AGSM) were put forward, highlighting the importance of raising standards, sharing best practice and moving the industry forward.
Claire Heyes, CEO of CORGI Technical Services, spoke on behalf of members of the AGSM who are Gas Managers from Housing Associations across the UK, collectively responsible for over 1.5 million homes. Attendees at the seminar were Chief Executives of Housing Associations, representatives from government departments, carbon monoxide charities and MPs.
Addressing the leaders of housing associations, who can have a big impact on achieving the industry’s goals, Claire urged them to be proactive on the basic safety issues within their organisations. This should include ensuring their workforce is consulted on safety matters and making sure that safety concerns in the workforce are reaching the board.
“As the principle duty holders, you cannot delegate your responsibilities to gas safety,” said Claire. “You have to demonstrate that all reasonable steps have been taken in carrying out your responsibilities as senior management. The members of the AGSM are qualified experienced Gas Managers and the Association will have a significant impact on gas safety in this sector. There is much scope for rethinking the way we do things, refocusing resources where most value can be added, ensuring there is adequate education, training and on-going CPD. Creativity, collaboration and new skills will be key to developing long term benefits and moving the industry forward. This in turn will lead to cost savings and increased safety.”
“The AGSM is at last providing one voice for the industry, working with its members to provide leadership, innovate and reshape the sector for the benefit of the whole group. We will be developing these plans over the coming months and communicating through our newsletters and events.”
Claire also urged organisations to ensure they are getting real value for money from their gas safety contracts. “Tenders for contracts need to have gas safety at their heart and not just price. In this climate for cost savings, safety mustn’t be compromised.”
Addressing the specific issue of Carbon Monoxide (CO) poisoning, Claire continued: “There are still far too many incidents of CO poisoning – it is estimated that around 4000 people pass through the health service each year with varying degrees of CO poisoning and on average we still have 50 preventable deaths each year. Whilst CO alarms play an invaluable role in gas safety they are only one of the building blocks to managing gas safety.”
Claire presented the seven building blocks to gas safety. “A fundamental building block is regular servicing and maintenance by competent qualified Gas Safe Registered Engineers,” said Claire. “You must have rigorous policies and procedures in place, including for Quality Control. It is crucial that you have full compliance with the latest legislation and best practice – ensuring that your Gas Managers are part of the key professional bodies such as the AGSM will play a key role. And finally, you need to ensure that all frontline housing staff and tenants have a high level of education and awareness of CO issues. A CO alarm is just one final measure to round off the holistic approach to CO poisoning. ”
The seminar also addressed the key issue of Landlord’s Gas Safety Records and delegates discussed the alarming number of cases of cookers being the cause of CO incidents.