Caitriona Deakin, CEO of CORGI Services, takes a look at the landscape in which our tradespeople operate and considers what next is on the horizon to provide them with the on-going support they need, and the peace of mind consumers and their families demand.
The heating industry has evolved over the years but one constant has remained throughout – safety. Since the Ronan Point disaster of 1968, regulations have tightened and Joe Public wouldn’t now dream of commissioning the services of a plumber or heating engineer without a prior check against the Gas Safe Register – one would hope.
But, this we know. What’s now needed is greater stability and accountability.
CO alarm numbers are disturbing
We are bound by legislation and guidance and while we can scan the horizon to a certain extent we cannot predict the next big thing that could have an impact on us all.
In addition, we live in an era of uncertainty around Brexit but we could see a deluge of school leavers seeking an apprenticeship or a gateway to a career. I’d like to think this will present many more willing and skilled people into our workforce, particularly as an apprenticeship levy is being introduced this April with employers having to commit more resource into this area.
It is with this in mind that I was encouraged to see the latest English Housing Survey 2015 / 2016 (March 2) issued by the Department for Communities and Local Government now reports on carbon monoxide (CO) alarms. Does this opportunities for us and the potential new workforce? I believe it does.
Much has been done in this area, not least by the Gas Safety Trust, and also since regulations for private landlords were tightened back in October 2015.
But more can be done. While this is the first time the survey has taken CO figures into account, it also reveals that one in four families are renting privately compared to one in ten in 2005.
This is an exponential rise but I fear CO alarm installation hasn’t aligned with this growth. Only 28 per cent of homes in England are reported to have a CO alarm is, quite frankly, disturbing. Especially given that private rented housing only accounts for 21 per cent.
Vulnerable, ageing members of society are affected
There is a whole raft of support material, accreditation and CPD for our tradespeople and this in the main is driven by companies like ours and, of course, under the umbrella of the Gas Safe Register – best practice is certainly being taken care of.
But I’d like to see more commitment. Boiler replacement schemes have come and gone and are often means-tested out of budget for many. In 2014, four deaths were reported from CO poisoning. It is our vulnerable, ageing members of society who are affected by this and a more robust replacement scheme may have helped even just one of these deaths being avoided.
If, say, regular checks were administered and funded, a registered heating engineer could flag issues and warning signs. But I also echo the sentiments of the Institute of Domestic and Environmental Engineers (IDHEE) recently, that tradespeople should not be overwhelmed by red tape and regulation – this should not be a barrier or something that compromises safety.
To read the article on HVP, click here.