Gas safety for businesses – are you putting staff at risk?

More than a third of SMEs don’t have a carbon monoxide alarm fitted on their business premises, while one in five Scottish homes has a dangerous gas appliance  

British Gas is warning Scottish employers to be on their guard after revealing this week that hundreds of thousands of UK businesses are putting their staff at risk by failing to comply with gas safety standards.
After surveying SME business leaders with energy responsibilities as part of Gas Safety Week 2015 (September 14 – 20), the gas supplier found that 20% had already experienced some sort of safety issue with a boiler or gas appliance.
Fifty-eight Scottish businesses were involved in the study of 509 senior managers which found that one in five have had gas health and safety issues, such as a gas leak, carbon monoxide leak or unsafe appliance, at their current or previous business premises.
As a result, many of the businesses (14%) lost trading hours with 14% and 11% losing revenue and having to buy a new boiler appliance respectively.
Seventeen per cent of those surveyed admitted they don’t have gas appliances serviced regularly by a gas engineer and more than 40% would dismiss the warning signs and switch off electrics if they smelled gas at work.
Because of this, British Gas says UK workers could be at risk from the dangers of gas and carbon monoxide.
Its study also suggested a lack of understanding about gas safety. When asked what they would do immediately if they smelled gas on their business premises, 41% of those surveyed said they would switch off the electrics.
British Gas has since warned that this is extremely dangerous and could spark a gas explosion.
Sixteen per cent of managers said they would try to work out which appliance was leaking gas, while 1% even said they would shut all windows and doors to keep the gas inside the building.
More than a third (36%) of respondents admitted they don’t have a carbon monoxide alarm fitted on their business premises.
British Gas advises that businesses install an alarm if the boiler or gas appliance is near somewhere habitable, where people work or rest, or near a bedroom.
What the law says
Making sure gas appliances, gas pipework and flues are maintained in a safe condition is a legal requirement for all employers under the Gas Safety (Installation & Use) Regulations 1998.
Landlords must also complete annual safety checks and provide on-going maintenance.
Vincent Thomas, field service manager at British Gas Business, said: “It’s crucial that businesses take gas safety seriously. I’ve seen some alarming stuff over the years in all different types of businesses – from factories to nursing homes. When something goes wrong it can stop a business in its tracks and have a serious effect on finances, staff and customers.
“Our engineers visit over 1,000 businesses every week, and find that many customers don’t think about the risks of carbon monoxide and gas leaks at work the same way as they might at home.  It’s absolutely essential to get any commercial gas appliance regularly serviced and maintained.”
Tips from British Gas:
  • Maintain and service your gas appliances on an annual basis
  • Any gas service, installation or repair should be carried out by a Gas Safe Registered engineer that is qualified to work on commercial gas appliances
  • Keep a record of any gas work carried out
  • Take out a service plan if your business relies on heating or gas appliances
  • Install a carbon monoxide alarm in your property. If you’re a landlord you can buy them online and have it delivered direct to your tenants to install themselves with minimal effort.
  • Look for signs of staining, soot or discoloration on, or around your gas boiler, fire or water heater. These can be signs of carbon monoxide. Keep vents in doors, walls or windows clear to ensure gas fumes can safely escape your business.
  • Know the signs of carbon monoxide poisoning, which can be similar to the flu.
  • If you notice anything wrong, stop using the appliance immediately, open windows and doors to ventilate your business and call the Gas Emergency Services Helpline on 0800 111 999 (24hrs). You should also seek medical advice.British Gas
 Get more advice here.
About British Gas
British Gas has a national network of qualified business service and repair engineers who provide support to 27,000 businesses across the UK. Last year the company fixed 26,600 broken boilers and gas appliances and completed 27,000 service visits.
British Gas Business provides gas and electricity to more than 800,000 business supply points as well as boiler maintenance, energy efficiency and renewable energy technology.
Its research
All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 509 SME senior managers plus who have responsibility for electricity/ gas supply and have gas boiler/ heating system on their business premises. Fieldwork was undertaken between 1st – 9th September 2015.  The survey was carried out online.
What is Gas Safety Week?
Gas Safety Week is an annual safety week – with this year being the fifth of its kind – to raise awareness of gas safety and the importance of taking care of gas appliances. It’s co-ordinated by gas authority the Gas Safe Register with support from the gas industry including retailers, manufacturers, consumer bodies and the public.GasSafetyWeek_Yellow-Logo_RGB
One in five homes in Scotland has a dangerous gas appliance
The Gas Safe Register’s own research recently found that one in five homes in Scotland has a dangerous gas appliance, which could cause severe health issues or even death.
It says more than half a million people in Scotland are putting their health and finances at risk by not getting their gas appliances’ safety checked every year – which costs as little at £53.
In the last year there have been more than 67,000 gas emergency call outs to homes in the UK, the equivalent of 186 every day3.
The Gas Safe Register has also found dangerous gas appliances lurking in one in five of the 4,267 homes it has inspected in Scotland in the past five years4.
According to the authority, Scotland has the third highest number of homes with unsafe gas appliances in the UK, behind Wales and the West Midlands.5
It says these types of dangers have led to six deaths and over 300 injuries in the last year alone across the UK.6  Left unchecked, gas appliances can cause gas leaks, fires, explosions and carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.
The authority is warning that not only can these kill you, they can also result in damage to your home which can run into thousands of pounds to rectify. Common problems associated with faulty or badly maintained gas appliances include black staining on surrounding walls, burst gas pipes, excessive condensation and in extreme cases, house fires and explosions.
Having a gas safety check is a legal requirement for landlords, however for homeowners the onus is on them to get this done.
To mark this year’s Gas Safety Week, Gas Safe Register is calling on homeowners to protect themselves and their property by having a safety check.
Jonathan Samuel, chief executive of Gas Safe Register said: “With the average cost of safety checking your gas boiler at just £53, it’s a small price to pay to keep you and your family safe and prevent damage to your home. While we’re seeing more people getting gas safety checks compared to last year, millions are still taking risks so we’re reminding people to make sure all their gas appliances are safety checked every year.”gas
The public can find out the number of unsafe gas appliances and gas incidents there have been in their local neighbourhood by visiting Gas Safe Register’s interactive gas map. People can also sign up to a free annual gas safety check reminder service.
Tips from Gas Safe Register to protect your home and family:
  • Get your gas appliances safety checked and serviced by a Gas Safe registered engineer every year. If you live in rented accommodation your landlord has a legal obligation to get this done.
  • Recognise the warning signs that your gas appliances are not working properly including lazy yellow flames and black marks around the appliance.
  • Know the symptoms of CO poisoning, including headaches, dizziness, nausea, breathlessness, collapse and loss of consciousness.