Taking Water Safety More Seriously

Is water safety being overlooked?

Water Safety

In the PHAM News article below, Kevin Wellman of CIPHE talks about how seriously water safety is taken, looking at the level of training required compared with the mandatory level of training necessary for gas installers.

 

 

Water safety can often be overlooked or taken for granted, but potential risks should not be underestimated. Kevin Wellman, CEO of the CIPHE, puts the case for a more comprehensive approach to protecting the public and safeguarding the reputation of professionals.

It may be a shock to some that hot water scalding and Legionnaires’ disease is making a significant contribution to the number of fatalities and deaths in this country, on par with, and in some cases exceeding, the number of carbon monoxide related incidents in the UK. One reason for this is likely due to the fact that gas related tragedies in the home and commercial environments has long been recognised and publicised as a health risk. In addition industry has embraced legislation to affect changes that have saved many lives. Water safety on the other hand can be overlooked by both installers and homeowners who often do not realise the potential dangers of not properly managing water temperatures and bacteria.

At the CIPHE, we make a point of discussing water safety issues with our members, manufacturers, consumer organisations and trade bodies. After all, it is the job of the plumbing and heating industry, as a whole, to stamp out unscrupulous work. Only through education and bringing issues like water safety to the attention of the entire supply chain can we make progress and prevent the unnecessary and avoidable deaths of those using hot water systems which aren’t safe or suitable for them – this includes vulnerable users as well as the public at large. What we must remember is that nobody is exempt from the dangers of scalding and Legionaries’ disease, so the only real option is to ensure that the right steps are taken to actively stamp out the risk.

What can be done?

The reality is that there is lots that can be done to ensure water safety is front of mind – namely this can be achieved through education and ensuring that installers have access to relevant safety information and resources. This is vital to helping plumbing and heating professionals keep up to date with the latest standards and preventative measures covering water safety.

A part of this is addressing skills early on. Plumbing apprenticeships 100 years ago used to be seven years long; 50 years ago it was five years long; now there are schools of thought that specify just two years as being sufficient. This decrease in training, along with advancements in product technology, gives rise to the concern that not all of the trade can be fully competent.

Further, when you compare the level of mandatory training gas installers must undertake, for example the 5-6 days of training required each year under the Nationally Accredited Certification Scheme (ACS) in order to renew their licence every five years, unfortunately water safety just doesn’t have the same level of training required. As an industry, water regulations were produced back in 1999 with training happening on a voluntary basis. Therefore, the reality for water safety and training under current schemes means installers are under no obligation to update their skills. This is where the CIPHE and like-minded organisations come in to put pressure on current ways of working and encourage members to make a change.

The CIPHE’s CPD Charter is designed to ensure that skills, based on agreed competency requirements, are supported and met by plumbing and heating professionals who undertake training. The idea is that the public will benefit directly by professionals updating their skills on topics such as water safety on a regular basis. Our view is that professionals may have undertaken training at the very beginning of their career and if work isn’t done to support the ongoing development of skills, the industry will move on without them.

It is evident that a greater skilled workforce for installation and maintenance of hot water systems is needed, which is why I urge trade professionals to become involved with the CIPHE and take advantage of all the resources we have to offer.

For more information about water safety, to request the CIPHE’s Safe Water Guide, and for membership enquiries, please email: info@ciphe.org.uk or call 01708 472791.

R M Labels Water Labelling

At R M Labels we have a comprehensive range of products for marking up water pipework and systems; if you need help selecting the right product for the job, give us a call on 01348 840 675 and we will be happy to assist.

 

 

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Promote Regular Servicing and Maintenance

HVP have published an article about Alisdair Cumming’s move from the automotive industry to become research development manager at Baxi. The article explains how Alisdair believes drawing comparisons between boilers and cars can help installers encourage homeowners to commit to a regular maintenance programme.

It’s a familiar story, where installers warn of the need for regular servicing and maintenance, but the message doesn’t always translate into a language homeowners understand. While many people may not think twice about spending hundreds of pounds to keep their cars running smoothly, this often isn’t a process they equate with keeping the home boiler going.

Explaining how a complex piece of machinery such as a boiler works can be tricky, and cash-strapped homeowners may be reluctant to spend money on their heating system until there is a Regular Boiler Servicingproblem. While boiler manufacturers such as Baxi publish easy-to-understand leaflets to assist installers with this, explaining the similarities between a boiler and a car can be a useful way of getting the point across.

In this vein, a useful comparison is boiler operating hours versus miles driven. Running a boiler for over a year without a service is much like driving a care for 100,000 miles without a check-up- a risk few drivers would take. No motorist would expect their vehicle to achieve the same miles per gallon if it had not been serviced, whereas many homeowners are shocked if a neglected boiler starts to burn more fuel to heat their home.

Indeed, some homeowners may be unaware that foregoing regular boiler servicing can also present a greater risk to their family’s health and safety. This is partly due to a lack of public knowledge around the threat of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. Around 50 people die each year from CO poisoning and another 4,000 are treated in hospital. Given that the most common sources of excessive CO in the home are faulty gas appliances, these figures further demonstrate the necessity of annual servicing.

Another comparison that can be made is the effect missing a service can have on a warranty. Much like a car warranty or vehicle insurance, necessary maintenance must be conducted to retain protection, and an annual service is generally a condition of a boiler warranty.

In the same way homeowners would only trust a qualified mechanic to work on their car, they should also know the importance of only using a Gas Safe Registered engineer for any gas work – including servicing. The key difference here is government legislation. It’s critical any gas work is completed to the highest standard, but the law dictates it can only be completed by a Gas Safe registered professional, whereas there are no specific laws or ongoing training requirements relating to car mechanics.

Baxi encourages all reputable heating engineers to make a habit of showing their ID card before beginning work, to help educate homeowners on the importance of the scheme.

Not only does this ensure the safety of the homeowner, it also means their annual service is valid for warranty purposes. For a Baxi boiler to be eligible for a warranty it must be registered within 30 days of installation, and the Benchmark checklist must be completed. Once a new boiler is registered on our installer loyalty scheme, Baxi Works, we send out a yearly reminder on behalf of the installer, so the customer knows it’s time to arrange a service.

Ongoing homeowner education is just one of the ways the industry can work to improve gas safety. By making comparisons to familiar scenarios, such as car servicing, installers can help ensure the crucial message gets through loud and clear.

At R M Labels, we regularly bring to the attention of our readers any articles that encourage installers to promote their Gas Safe credentials to their customers. As a licensed supplier of Gas Safe products that are only available to Gas Safe registered installers*, we would suggest that all Gas Safe registered installers or heating engineers should include the Gas Safe logo and their registration number on information passed on to customers. These details can be added to annual service labels that can be applied to new boilers as they are installed. We all know how quickly time passes and it is easy for customers to forget when an annual service is due. Having a service label on the appliance will be a constant reminder of when the next service is due so that the date doesn’t get missed, and so causing the warranty to be invalidated.  Furthermore, displaying your information on the appliance will save your customers time trying to locate your details and will mean they are more likely to contact you first each time they need any working doing, rather than trying to find someone else.

Annual Boiler Service Label
Personalised Annual Boiler Service Label by R M Labels Limited

*Every time Gas Safe licensed products are sold by R M Labels, the purchaser’s details are checked on the Gas Safe Register to ensure they are a registered installer and their details match those given on the Gas Safe Register.

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Safe Electrical Isolation of Gas Appliances

 

Dont’t Ignore The Electrics

This article was spotted in the ‘Your Views’ section of HVP:

“The Gas Safe Register Technical Bulletin (TB) 118 issued in July last year, quite rightly intimated that all engineers working on electrical appliances should be working under the Health & Safety at Work Regulations and more specifically the Electricity at Work Regulations.

This TB would appear to go some way in helping our industry take a safer approach to working on electrical appliances, or at least it would if it had reached more than a handful of engineers. Speaking to the gas engineers coming through our gas centre at Sterling Assessment Services on a daily basis, I can honestly say that all who were asked had no knowledge of this

Don't Ignore The ElectricsTB – and there lies the problem. I am sure that employers and engineers alike will have skipped over this TB due to its title and content: ‘Safe electrical isolation of gas appliances’.

In our experience, as an industry we have predominantly ignored: temporary continuity bonding, safe isolation of electrical appliances and basic fault finding practices. I will at this point apologise to those gas engineers/companies out there who do take this matter seriously, but in our experience you are in the minority. This approach can obviously lead to serious injury, or even death, along with possible prosecution and civil action against employers and employees who ignore legislation and manufacturers’ instructions.

A gas boiler is a 240V-AC electrical appliance with a large metallic surface area, along with numerous internal AC and DC electrical components, some of which can be as high as 325V-DC. With this in mind, surely it is inconceivable that engineers would proceed to put their hands in and around these appliances on a daily basis without first using basic electrical safety checks and the safe isolation procedures required by legislation and manufacturers’ instructions.

To this end, NICEIC has recently released a fully accreditied training and assessment program for gas engineers which guides them through basic electrical science, such as: safe isolation, how boilers/systems work and fault finding and testing. This will enable gas engineers and employers of gas engineers to keep up to date with the current electricity at work regulations while up-skilling themselves and their workforce on the fault finding techniques. This course will also allow gas engineers to use the latest up-to-date electrical testing equipment.” Julian Hearn, Sterling Assessment Services

Here is the Gas Safe Register Technical Bulletin 118

NICEIC: Electrical Regulations Explained

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Gas Certification Scheme Scrapped

Last month we told you about the new Gas Certification Scheme launched by Capita, the company behind the Gas Safe Register. However, this month it has  been reported in PHAM News that following widespread criticism from gas installers the scheme has been scrapped.

The UKAS gas safety certification scheme from Capita Gas Compliance Services (CGCS) was trumpeted as giving businesses a competitive edge, as well as saving on assessment costs and raising safety standards. In addition, it was claimed that the UKAS accreditation would provide assurance for organisations and employees against the risks of gas safety work.

Announcing the scheme, Matthew Hickman, MD at Capita Gas Compliance Services, said it would give businesses that go ‘above and beyond’ for gas safety work the recognition they deserve among their customer base and create potential new business opportunities. Assessments for businesses looking to achieve CGCS certification were to cover a number of areas, including quality control, supervision policies, service warranties and an on-site gas work assessment of employees and contractors.

In response to the launch, hundreds of Gas Safe registered installers voiced their opposition, concerned that it would confuse customers and create a two-tier system. Over 400 installers joined together to email Capita and express their displeasure. A few days later Capita replied with a short statement that thanked the installers for their feedback and said that the new service had been withdrawn.

Peter Booth (@PBplumber), who received over 500 retweets on his video that asked: ‘Am I not Gas Safe enough?’, commented “It’s great to see what a group of like-minded individuals can do when they get together for a common cause. We didn’t feel this scheme was needed and were vocal about the fact. It seems our voice was finally heard and they have scrapped this unwarranted scheme. Common sense has prevailed.”

Short Lived Gas Safety Scheme

PHAM News Editor, Chris Jones, went on to report:

Towards the end of its reign as the country’s gas registration body, CORGI received widespread criticism for being too commercially minded, upsetting not just installers, suspicious of any ‘money grabbing’ activities, but also other industry trade bodies and exhibition organisers who viewed the heavily promoted organisation as unfair competion. In comparison, Gas Safe, operated by multi-faceted group Capita, has received relatively good press. Restricting its endeavours to the registering, inspection and notification of gas installations, Capita has largely succeeded in avoiding controversy and the wrath of installers, apart from those few who thought they had wrongly been removed from the register. But that all changed in February with the announcement of the new gas certification scheme.

Credit to Capita for seemingly taking the criticism on board and wasting no time in withdrawing the scheme, but a lack of any formal statements and information about how such decisions were made does leave a number of questions unanswered. Not least is how the organisation plans to rebuild its now damaged relationship with the installer community.

At R M Labels, we have been following this story with interest and we will continue to post any further statements that are published.  We are keen supporters of Gas Safe Registered Installers and Heating Engineers. We supply many products licensed by the Gas Safe Register, such as gas certificates, gas warning labels and boiler service labels; we therefore strive to keep up-to-date with all legislation changes in the industry and to make sure that all the products we supply are to the current standards.

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Annual Boiler Servicing and Safety First

Do your homeowners have their boilers serviced annually?

When a heating engineer installs a new boiler, it is important to spend time with the homeowner explaining the terms and conditions of the warranty and stressing how important it is to register the product with the manufacturer.

Boilers require regular maintenance to maximise performance, reliability and safety, meaning it is important that homeowners look after their boilers right from the start, with regular servicing necessary to maintain the validity of the warranty.

Warranty terms usually stipulate only replacing parts with genuine spares and arranging an annual service, which must be carried out by a Gas Safe registered engineer.

Spending time explaining this to the customer is a great way to show the

Annual Boiler Service Label
Personalised Annual Boiler Service Label by R M Labels Limited

aftersales support your company can offer. Place a service label on the boiler so that your customer can see exactly when their boiler was installed and when the next service is due, this will mean they can clearly see your details and easily get in touch with your for their annual service.

Safety First

It’s important to explain to customers that the main reason for an annual service of their boiler is their safety. Consumer awareness of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning is still thought to be generally low and it is important that installers explain to their customers that unsafe gas appliances (appliances that have been incorrectly fitted, badly repaired or poorly maintained) can produce this highly poisonous gas.  In the case of a leak, this can pose a serious risk.  Regular servicing of appliances is the best way to tackle this risk, ensuring the appliance will continue to perform as required and run efficiently all year round.  Furthermore, this will help reduce energy costs and the likelihood of breakdowns, saving money for the homeowner and keeping their family safe.

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