HC Deb 11 February 1998 vol 306 cc229-31W
Mrs. Brinton

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (1) what representations he has received concerning training and assessment for gas installation industry employees; and if he will make a statement; [28461]

(2) what plans he has to review the appropriateness of current training and assessment courses for CORGI registration by gas installers; [28463]

(3) if he will make it his policy to review the current methods of certification and public identification of degree of competence of gas installation workers; [28464]

(4) what representations he has received concerning a review of the gas installation industry; [28566]

(5) what plans he has to initiate a review of the gas installation industry; [28567]

(6) what plans he has to meet industry representatives, gas suppliers and other Government departments to discuss the adequacy of current legislation and HSE criteria in controlling the non-registered and DIY gas installers; [28568]

(7) what research his Department has (a) commissioned and (b) evaluated on the relationship between gas-related health and safety incidents, and the professional qualifications of the installation operatives. [28570]

Angela Eagle

The Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1994 (as amended) place a requirement on anyone carrying out gas work to be competent to do so. This requirement applies equally to gas fitters registered with the Council for Registered Gas Installers (CORGI) or people carrying out so-called 'DIY' work. The standards against which competence is assessed are set out in the Health and Safety Commission's (HSC) 1988 Approved Code of Practice (ACoP), 'Standards of Training in Safe Gas Installation'. This ACoP has a special legal status.

If an individual is prosecuted for a breach of the 1994 Regulations, and it is proved that the relevant provisions of the ACoP were not followed, a Court may find that individual at fault, unless they can demonstrate that the law was complied with in some other way. At the beginning of this year a new nationally accredited certification scheme for individual gas fitting operatives came on stream. It will run in parallel with the ACoP scheme until the latter is phased out on 31 July 1998.

The 1994 Regulations, which are enforced by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), also place a statutory duty on any employer with employees carrying out gas work, or self-employed person performing such work, to be a member of a class of persons approved for the time being by the HSE".

Currently, CORGI is the only body to seek and obtain approved status.

Following a review of CORGI in 1995, the HSE published new criteria for approved bodies which charged them with introducing a new nationally accredited certification scheme for gas operatives by January 1998. This scheme sets out the nationalstandards against which individual gas fitting operatives are assessed for competence.

On 13 January 1998, the Health and Safety Commission agreed that there should be two reviews of the statutory registration scheme, together with a comprehensive look at the underpinning legislation, ie the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1994 (as amended). The first review, which will start shortly, will look at the extent to which, and how well, CORGI has met the criteria issued in 1995. It will also draw up the criteria against which registered bodies will need to operate for the period 1 January 1999 to 31 December 2001. It is expected that the outcome of this review will be known in the Summer.

The second review, which will start later this year, will be a comprehensive evaluation of the statutory registration scheme taking particular account of the impact of the new nationally accredited certification scheme. Running in parallel with this will be an examination of the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1994 (as amended). The outcomes from these overlapping reviews should be known by December 2000. All interoseed parties will be invited to contribute to these latter reviews.

In relation to the causes of gas incidents and the competency of gas fitting operatives, the HSE has established an industry working group to consider this. The group, comprising industry representatives, trade unions and consumer groups, is looking at the causes of gas-related carbon monoxide incidents with a view to taking preventive measures where appropriate. BG Technology has also initiated an industry-wide research project to look at a range of gas safety issues. This initiative is being supported by a number of government departments as well as by the British gas industry. The initiative includes a specific project on incident data analysis.

I recently met representatives from the Carbon Monoxide and Gas Safety Society (CO Gas), CORGI, and Carbon Monoxide Support (CO Support). These meetings have included a range of issues relating to gas safety matters, including the competence of gas fitting operatives.

I also replied on behalf of the Government in the adjournment debate on 21 January 1998, Official Report, columns 973–77 dealing with carbon monoxide poisoning, initiated by my hon. Friend the Member for Houghton and Washington, East (Mr. Kemp).

In conclusion, although there are plans to review the statutory registration scheme for gas installation businesses and the related legislation, there are no plans to initiate a review of the gas installation industry.

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