Jimmy Hendry, Master Plumber and Fellow at the CIPHE, argues that the purchase of gas products should be restricted solely to those who have the appropriate qualifications to ensure a safe installation. 

If you take a cursory look at the press releases featured on the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) website, it won’t take you long to identify stories of individuals who have serviced or installed gas products illegally.

Worryingly, the individual at fault is often referred to as an unregistered gas engineer or fitter. If they hold no qualifications, do they have the right to call themselves a gas engineer? 

One individual sentenced in recent months had not undertaken any appropriate training in gas work since the 1970s, yet he is still referred to by the HSE as a gas engineer.

Boilers, fires, cookers etc. can be bought legally in the same merchants and stores that each and every one of us use on a daily basis. Is it time that the Gas Safe Register and its overseeing body the HSE said ‘enough’? 

When we wish to buy any gas product should we have to show our Gas Safe Register card before the purchase, have our number taken, and provide a paper trail. 
Let’s face it, if we’re buying it, we know where it’s to be fitted and we all should have a Gas Safe number to attribute to the job when compiling the warranty paperwork, service records etc. The Gas Safe Register could then check the merchant’s lists and say: “You bought this product on this day at this time, can we see the corresponding paperwork, job sheet, landlords safety certificate, commissioning check list etc?”

Perhaps if the HSE and Gas Safe stepped up and started asking for these basic checks at the merchants, we’d see a reduction in rogue engineers, folk doing their own work, as well as accidents and fatalities. 

Currently my father (a retired farmer) can go into B&Q, Screwfix, or any Wolseley branch etc. and buy a domestic gas boiler and fit it. Unless someone reports him, no one is any the wiser, until something goes wrong. Worryingly, he can buy leak detection fluid and many other gas spares off the shelf in any DIY shop – such easy access could tempt him and others to mess around with their own systems. 

Never do we hear of Joe Bloggs from 29 Acacia Road, Anytown, ever being prosecuted for fitting their own gas cooker or fire. A friend recently contacted me as their husband was fitting the new cooker but had to take ‘all that white tape rubbish’ off the thread that jammed the threads during fitting. She asked if I could help, my answer was: “tell him to leave it alone and put the kettle on, I’m on my way.” 

This is the reality of what we’re dealing with, so perhaps it’s time that Gas Safe, the HSE, and other gas bodies started looking at who retailers are selling gas products to and take the appropriate action at the source. However, if the HSE and Gas Safe started to really look at this, it would likely concern gas fittings producers as it could hit their sales figures.

What I’m proposing is this: if you want to buy a gas product, you need to show you have a valid Gas Safe card, and you have the appropriate qualifications to fit what you are buying. 

It should be the first step in a much larger check system to prevent many of the things we’re taught to report.