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Installers back Plumbfix ID request to stop cowboys

A poll of more than 600 plumbing and heating installers has revealed support for a policy to restrict the sale of gas safe critical products to Gas Safe registered engineers only.
Some 613 of the 622 installers questioned at the Plumbfix stand at the recent Installer Live exhibition, said they would back a policy where all should be asked to show their Gas Safe Register id card to buy gas carrying products in the UK, effectively cutting off the supply to unqualified tradesmen.

Trade-only plumbing and heating supplier Plumbfix, part of Screwfix, has already pledged to only sell gas critical components to those who can prove they are on the Gas Safe Register and says it checks installers’ details for each relevant purchase. “Our customers tell us these illegal workers are a huge source of concern to engineers who work hard to prove their competency and achieve high standards. Illegals tarnish the reputation of professional gas installers by putting lives at risk through poor quality, dangerous work.” said John Mewett, Plumbfix marketing director.

The Plumbfix research follows data from Gas Safe Register which revealed a quarter of a million gas appliances in Britain and the Isle of Man are installed or serviced by illegal fitters every year.

The Gas Safe Register study* estimated that 7,500 hard core illegal gas fitters are doing these jobs without the skills or the qualifications to work on gas.

More than half (57%) are sole traders. As well as carrying out gas work, many also undertake plumbing jobs (90%), bathroom fitting (81%), kitchen fitting (67%), general building (43%) and electrical work (43%).

*Accent carried out this research for Gas Safe Register in August 2009. To be eligible for interview, respondents had to say they personally undertook at least one of four types of gas work (fitting gas cookers or hobs, gas fires, gas boilers or doing gas pipework). In total, 427 people were interviewed, (of whom 270 were from online sources and 157 advertised in Yellow Pages or Thomson directories).

Phill Brewster, Gas Safe Register’s national investigations manager said: “One in 10 of the illegal gas installations we investigated in the last nine months have been “immediately dangerous” and we had to disable the appliances straight away to make them safe. Over a third of these were leaking gas and almost half had faults that could lead to lethal carbon monoxide exposure”.

As well as searching for illegal gas fitters, Gas Safe Register’s investigation team also investigates registered engineers carrying out work they are not qualified to do. Brewster said: “Just because someone is qualified and registered to work on one gas appliance, for example gas boilers, does not mean that they are automatically qualified to put in a gas fire. If they do this, the work is illegal and potentially life threatening. The work that engineers can legally do is listed on the back of their Gas Safe Register card.”

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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