Domestic gas events and enforcement advice
Formerly OC 440/30 - Gas safety procedure and enforcement advice
- Open Government Status
- Fully Open
- Publication date
- Review date
- Author Unit/Section
- DCEO/OPSTD/Manufacturing, Transportation & Utilities Sector/Utilities section
- Target Audience:
- FOD staff dealing with domestic gas safety
This replaces OC 440/30 version 3. It outlines the main legal requirements concerning domestic gas safety, how these should be applied when dealing with relevant dutyholders and important procedures to follow. It should be read in conjunction with:
The main legal requirements for domestic gas safety are set out in:
- the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 (GSIUR) and the associated Approved Code of Practice and Guidance, L56 (fourth edition, 2013);
- the Gas Appliances (Safety) Regulations 1995; and
- general health and safety legislation, in particular HSW act section 3.
Also relevant are:
- the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR), specifically regulation 11 (formerly regulation 6 of RIDDOR 1995);
- The Gas Safety (Management) Regulations 1996 (GSMR) - regulation 7.
This guidance covers how to apply fee for intervention (FFI) in domestic gas safety situations and how to follow up/deal with:
- Gas Incidents (attributable to CO poisoning, fires/explosions from the ignition of gas, or other exposure e.g. to unburnt gas), reported under RIDDOR regulation 11(1) by either the gas conveyor (or their Emergency Service Provider (ESP)), or very occasionally by liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) suppliers
Note: Conveyors, fillers, importers and suppliers of gas through fixed pipe systems have a legal duty to report incidents which have resulted in:
- a death,
- person(s) found unconscious or been taken to hospital, where flammable gas is considered likely to be a potential cause, but incidents where people have taken themselves to hospital or been taken to another medical facility (eg ‘walk-in-centre’) are not reportable.
Relevant incidents may be brought to HSE’s notice, e.g. by emergency services, before formal RIDDOR notification has been received;
- Dangerous Gas Fittings reported under RIDDOR regulation 11(2) by Gas Safe registered engineers, or by the ESP following emergency call-out visits;
- Gas Concerns/Complaints about dangerous fittings/standards of work/etc received from
- members of the public who have concerns about gas work they have had done (by either registered engineers or unregistered fitters);
- relatives, friends or consumer bodies (such as Consumer Futures) acting on their behalf;
- local authority (LA) housing sector officers;
- Gas Safe Register
- Landlords and Managing or Letting Agents of domestic rented properties failing to comply with their duties under GSIUR regulation 36 (including the annual safety check, maintenance and record keeping);
- Unregistered Gas Fitters;
- Building and Home Improvement Contractors;
- Competence issues relating to Registered Gas Engineers;
- Concerns or reports about manufacturers of commercial catering equipment or industrial space heaters not meeting the requirements of the Gas Appliances (Safety) Regulations 1995 should be progressed via the relevant Product Safety Team (see Intranet for contact details).
Note: Fires/explosions involving distribution pipework upstream of the consumer’s emergency control valve (ECV) are dealt with by HID (see OC 440/28).
These actions apply variously to administrative staff and inspectors at Bands 1, 2, and 3, covering initial receipt of reports, handling reports, raising investigations and special COIN recording requirements. Appendices 1- 3 provide important technical and legal information.
- Administrative staff should pass information about incidents or concerns to the Band 2 for a decision on further action where:
- there is an ongoing risk;
- where the dutyholder has previous history with HSE;
- where the work done was carried out over 12 months ago;
- where there is a third party with duties; or
- the circumstances are complex.
And in all cases, with reference to the FOD gas events handling procedure.
See Appendix 2 for factors that may help with these decisions;
- Fatal incidents must be brought immediately to the attention of the relevant Band 2 inspector (or their deputy) in accordance with The Operations Group Investigation Procedure;
- All fatal incidents, including those where there is no dutyholder or work related activity, must be followed up to determine the actual cause of death and whether they were gas-related;
- Where initial enquiries establish that there is no need for further HSE involvement, HSE should monitor the progress of investigations made on behalf of the supplier or conveyor under GSMR regulations 7(12) or 7(14). These investigations may uncover further information about the circumstances of the incident and occasionally these will indicate, contrary to initial information, that there are grounds for FOD intervention. However, if it is confirmed that HSE involvement is unnecessary then that should be recorded in the comments field on the COIN case notes to explain why no investigation was carried out.
Closing down investigations
- Investigations of domestic gas incidents reported under RIDDOR 11(1) may be closed down if it becomes clear that establishing further facts of the case, particularly the identity or location of dutyholders, would consume more time than is justifiable. This decision must be countersigned at Band 1 level;
- Where people have, or could have died, ensure the reasons for curtailing the investigation are recorded in the COIN case tracking note;
- When an investigation into a death or injury due to gas (natural or LPG) is closed down because it is established that there was no work-related activity (i.e. no dutyholder), the incident remains reportable under RIDDOR.
- HSE should be notified [GSMR regulation 7(16)] before the supplier’s/conveyor’s investigation required by GSMR starts. An HSE inspector should, and in the case of a fatality or serious incident where there is a dutyholder must attend. Subsequent reports/statements often provide essential technical evidence in the event of legal action;
- If the investigation indicates a concern about public safety, e.g. a gas engineer has demonstrated a pattern of poor work that may be repeated in other locations, inspectors should refer to the advice in OC 440/35.
Landlords and Letting Agents
- Landlords in both the public (e.g. social housing associations) and private rented sectors must maintain gas fittings and flues provided for their tenants in a safe condition, and have appliances and flues checked for safety at least once a year by a Gas Safe registered engineer. These duties add to the more general duties on landlords under HSW Act section 3, and those vicariously placed on any managing or letting agents that they choose to look after their business interests under HSW Act section 36;
- Greatest priority should be given to evidence that landlords are failing to maintain appliances provided for tenants, or have failed to arrange annual gas safety checks (GSIUR regulation 36), especially if a number of properties are implicated. If there is good evidence that safety checks have been carried out then concerns simply involving non-provision of gas safety check records to tenants would not be assigned a high priority;
- For small scale landlords (e.g. a private householder renting out their home), where the letting is not their main work, inspectors should consider carefully whether an ‘undertaking’ exists and Section 3 applies. This does not affect their GSIUR obligations;
- In the case of managing or letting agents operating on behalf of landlords, any contractual agreements detailing the agent's role should be closely examined. If it is clear that the agent has agreed to undertake gas safety responsibilities on the landlord's behalf (as is more than likely in the case of 'absentee' landlords living abroad or remotely from their property), they should be treated in the same way as landlords if they have failed to discharge their contractual obligations. Consider action under HSW Act section3 or section 36 linked to GSIUR regulation 36;
- Where HSE's investigation has shown that an appliance is unsafe, and there are concerns that the landlord or managing agent will not rectify immediately, the emergency service provider (ESP) should be notified so that they can decide whether to disconnect the gas supply to ensure safety of the tenant.
Registered engineers and unregistered fitters
- Inspectors should give serious consideration to legal proceedings if it is clear that an engineer already known to HSE, whether registered or not, has carried out particular work that could have endangered lives;
- It is important to distinguish between duties under GSIUR placed on businesses and those on individuals. The Regulations clearly distinguish between 'any person carrying out gas work' and the 'employer of any person' and between the duties imposed on the two parties. Regulations such as 26(9) only impose duties on an individual engineer.
- In considering enforcement action, the next consideration (irrespective of whether the individual is registered or not) should be competence in gas work, and the associated risks that may arise as a result;
- Important factors when considering competence of individuals are whether:
- they hold current, Nationally Accredited Certification Scheme (ACS) certificates in the work they are undertaking e.g. should not be carrying out work on LPG appliances if only qualified for natural gas or work on types of appliances for which they do not hold certificates. Note that the competence assessment regime is administered by EU Skills not Gas Safe Register;
- they have met specific requirements in GSIUR e.g. regulation 30
- they have complied with manufacturer's installation instructions;
- their work has been carried out in accordance with the requirements of relevant British Standards (e.g. BS 5440 Parts 1 and 2);
- the range of evidence of poor workmanship is sufficient to question the individual's competence. A single event could be attributed to a lack of diligence or error, rather than proof of incompetence;
- For certain specialised gas work e.g. work in the industrial/large commercial sector, or on new types of equipment such as fuel cells, there may not be a relevant ACS and reliance is placed on competencies in similar areas and manufacturer/employer training. Information about the most current ACS framework is available from EU Skills;
- COP 20,‘Standards of training in safe gas installation’, is scheduled for withdrawal will be replaced with industry guidance; relevant material has been incorporated into the fourth (2013) edition of L56.
When considering competence of registered engineers, inspectors should bear in mind:
- That Gas Safe registration represents a means by which the engineer has been, and should continue to be, assessed for application of competence. Therefore, any case alleging incompetence is going to be difficult to prove. Gas Safe Register should have information on previous inspections of the engineer’s work, and thereby their abilities and competence;
- The engineer’s ID card will have on its reverse side a list of those activities for which competence has been demonstrated;
- Gas Safe Register’s own rules require an engineer to have the required ACS for the type of fitting/appliance they are working on. Working without a specific competence is not in itself a breach of GSIUR regulation 3(3), (which only demands the engineer, or if applicable their employer, is registered), nor is it usually sufficient proof of a lack of competence under regulation 3(1). It is still necessary to provide other evidence of lack of competence to sustain prosecution (e.g. an installation being found to be dangerous after the engineer has worked on it);
- If the individual’s work is found to be to an unacceptable standard, sanctions including suspension pending re-training/assessment or removal from the Register can be imposed which will have significant a financial impact on their business;
- Unless the engineer has previously come to HSE’s attention or there is evidence of significantly defective workmanship, details should be passed to Gas Safe Register who will follow up based on their ‘risk profiling’ system. Information will be logged against the individual (and if relevant the employing company) and their work will be monitored to ensure they are indeed meeting competence criteria. Details, including sufficient information for the business and/or individual to be identified should be passed to Gas Safe Register by phone call to 0800 408 5500 or using a dedicated e-mail address (see contact details for Gas Safe Register in TRIM 2013/371827).
- If on the circumstances of the case inspectors decide to proceed with any legal action, they should look at information on the Gas Safe Register website and, if appropriate, contact the Register, where a record of ACS certification, previous assessments and any past history for individual engineers and businesses will be held;
- Any registered businesses/engineers acted against by HSE will need to have their registration status reviewed by Gas Safe Register. In the case of a prohibition notice being served or prosecution taken, the business/engineer could have sanctions placed on them such as enhanced inspection, suspension or removal from the register. It is therefore important that details of any action taken against registered engineers are notified as soon as possible to Gas Safe Register.
- High priority should be given to unregistered fitters who have been previously warned about carrying out work while not Gas Safe registered.
- This would include those who are employed and not registered in their own right (i.e. ‘moonlighting’ or doing private work under their employers’ registration) or registered engineers working out of scope of their competencies i.e. where they do not hold the relevant ACS;
- Those carrying out work incompetently require particular attention, with action to be escalated if they have made false claims of registration;
- Carrying out 'work in relation to a gas fitting' without being registered is an offence, meriting action in its own right. However, if there is no ongoing risk, and there are no other factors to consider such as previous advice, the unregistered fitter should be contacted using standard letter GSL1 in the Gas events handling procedure. Details of the individual, and action taken, together with a copy of the letter should be recorded against the COIN case. Should evidence come to light that they have subsequently undertaken further gas work, and chosen to disregard the letter then consider the following enforcement action:
- A Prohibition Notice (PN) whether or not there is evidence of risk from the work done, to prevent further work and protect the public;
- Prosecution if there is evidence of a pattern of offending, with greater weight if there has been intent to deceive and/or work has resulted in risk to the public due to incompetence.
- If information is received that businesses are falsely claiming to be registered which is also an offence, or using someone else’s identity or registration number e.g. through advertisements in the local press or letterheads on quotes for gas fitting work, and gas work has taken place, this should be given particular attention;
- Trading Standards Officers (TSOs) are responsible for separate consumer protection legislation, which also makes false claims of Gas Safe registration an offence and the matter may have been separately referred to them so close liaison with the local TSOs is essential. Where action is likely to be for false claims alone, the case should be passed to local TSOs to take action;
- Information about unregistered fitters should be passed to Gas Safe Register (see contact details for Gas Safe Register in TRIM 2013/371827) with as much personal detail as possible to enable identification of the individual/business. This will be kept on record in case of future concerns.
Kitchen fitters etc
- DIY stores, kitchen installers etc, which subcontract gas work, should receive careful consideration particularly if they have come to HSE’s attention previously.
Builders and contractors
- If contractors disturb or block flues or flue terminals giving rise to possible risks to gas consumers, the minimum action should be to write to the company to explain what has been reported, and remind them of their duties under both GSIUR (regulation 8) and HSW Act section 3. Building contractors' work can put lives at risk, e.g. through capping-off active chimneys serving gas appliances, blocking chimneys with rubble during chimney repairs, enclosing flues within newly built extensions or conservatories, or altering the relative position of appliances/flues when fitting kitchen units or other cupboards. Energy-efficiency initiatives in homes, including social housing, e.g. loft and cavity wall insulation and external cladding, have the potential to impact on gas safety;
- If there is a repeat offence, or where a serious or fatal incident occurs following building or house improvement work and there is sufficient evidence that the work caused, or materially contributed to, the incident, inspectors should consider legal proceedings;
- Builders may also be involved in carrying out gas work whilst unregistered, in some cases arranging for a subsequent check/approval by a Gas Safe registered engineer. This may be to avoid costs or based on a misapprehension of the law, but there is no facility in GSIUR for this. As an example, in the case of a domestic gas boiler, all installation work involving the appliance and gas pipework should only be undertaken by a Gas Safe registered engineer; work on the 'wet' side such as radiators and associated water pipework may however be done by others. Gas Safe Register’s Technical Bulletin 014, Gas Work, provides industry guidance about registered engineers ‘signing off’ work done by unregistered fitters which if done for the purposes of circumventing duties under GSIUR is not acceptable. Inspectors should consider legal proceedings if the offence is repeated after warning.
- Independent Legal Oversight may be required and Legal Advisors’ Office (LAO) should be consulted in certain gas cases (see OC 168/11) eg:
- where there has been an incident with multiple members of the public put at risk;
- there a significant risk of loss of liberty on conviction;
- or a history of similar incidents and evidence of ‘bad character’.
- Gas investigations may require directed surveillance to collect evidence. The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) sets down strict criteria if it is intended to use directed surveillance which must be followed in such cases (see Intranet for Legal and Enforcement - Guidance on Directed Surveillance).
Appendices 1 and 2 contain further information on the legal requirements mentioned in the introduction.
Recording & Reporting
HSE publishes annual statistics of domestic gas incidents reported under RIDDOR. It is essential to ensure COIN data quality so details can be validated. For all gas fatalities:
- Arrange for as much information about the incident as is immediately available to be sent to HSE Secretariat, using form Fatality 1 (this applies even if there is no related work activity or where gas is yet to be confirmed as the cause)
- Create a COIN case for confirmed or suspected gas-related fatalities, even if there is/is found to be no direct work-related element (in which case HSE will not investigate);
- If there is no dutyholder then record the deceased person as the ‘company’ and their address as the ‘site’;
- Record the cause of death and any contact (e.g. with the police/Coroner) in the case notes;
- If there is no direct work-related element then mark the case ‘closed not for investigation’ AND close the company and site records;
- Where the incident is subsequently found to be not gas-related, mark the record on both the RIDDOR database and COIN as ‘non-reportable’ and notify HSE Secretariat of the change.
OPSTD, MTU Sector, Utilities section.
Appendix 1: Gas incident reports [RIDDOR 2013 regulation 11(1)]
All gas incidents causing death, unconsciousness or a person(s) being taken to hospital for treatment (including: exposure to unburnt gas, fire, explosion, carbon monoxide poisoning from any cause including misuse of an appliance, suicide and failure to have appliances serviced) are reportable under RIDDOR even where there is no work related activity. The person responsible for reporting the incident is, for incidents involving natural gas - the gas conveyor and for incidents involving liquefied petroleum gas – the gas supplier. If a fatal gas incident comes to HSE’s attention where the correct notifier cannot be identified then the local HSE office should submit the RIDDOR report in the absence of one.
The Gas Safety (Management) Regulations 1996 (GSMR, regulation 7(14)) place duties on natural gas suppliers to carry out investigations of RIDDOR regulation 11(1) carbon monoxide (CO) incidents. Similar duties are placed on gas conveyors in relation to fire and explosion incidents arising out of gas escapes from fittings in domestic premises under GSMR regulation 7(12). OC 440/28 advises on demarcation and liaison arrangements with HID who cover incidents involving the supply pipework up to the meter.
Some reports of 'suspected' carbon monoxide incidents might later prove to be false. This may happen in the event of an unexplained death in a room with a heating appliance, someone being taken to hospital after a CO alarm has activated or fumes smelled, or following visits by engineers responding to an emergency call, as their standard procedure is to assume the worst and isolate the gas supply. Gas suppliers will usually want to be assured that CO is involved before starting a GSMR investigation and HSE should liaise with the supplier as soon as possible after receipt of the incident details to ensure any investigation is suitably progressed so the householder/tenant is not left without heating.
There is no statutory requirement for LPG suppliers to carry out investigations. Where a dutyholder is implicated, inspectors should make arrangements for technical support from Gas Safe Register, or a process safety specialist for fire/explosion incidents and LPG suppliers may assist with some investigations.
Appendix 2: Dangerous gas fittings [RIDDOR 2013 regulation 11(2)] and concerns (complaints) reports
The Gas Industry Unsafe Situations Procedure (GIUSP) provides a steer on situations which would be considered ‘dangerous’. A copy of the procedure printed as the ‘Gas Safety Book’ should be available in each FOD office and the procedure can be downloaded from the Gas Safe Register website (GSIUP download). The following information on matters causing particular concern may also help in the decision making process:
- Ongoing risks e.g. gas appliances identified as having serious flueing, ventilation or combustion defects;
- Concerns or reports about the activities of registered engineers OR unregistered fitters where there are grounds to believe that lives have been or could have been put at risk, with particular attention given to the following:
- leaving uncapped pipes (GSIUR regulation 6),
- faulty installation of appliances, giving rise to clear danger, representing a prima facie breach of GSIUR regulation 26 or 33;
- provision of dangerous flues for appliances e.g. incompatible flue, flue installed in inappropriate location, not properly jointed/supported, termination in wrong place, and post 2007, a flue concealed in a void (GSIUR regulation 27);
- installation/connection of new appliances to seriously defective flues (GSIUR regulation 27);
- any other installations with gross deviations (including ventilation deficiencies) from the requirements of relevant British Standards, current at the time, in particular BS 5440, Part 1: 2008 Specification for installation of gas appliances to chimneys and for maintenance of chimneys and Part 2: 2009 Specification for the installation and maintenance of ventilation provision for gas appliances, dealing with flueing and ventilation matters;
- installation of unsuitable appliances in bathrooms and bedrooms, in contravention of GSIUR regulation 30 or 36(11);
Appendix 3: Technical support for investigations
- Gas Safe Register provides investigation support as part of the service concession agreement to run the Register. Guidance on obtaining technical support for gas safety investigations may be found in the Technical Support for Gas Safety Investigations section of the Research and Science & Engineering Projects web page on the Intranet. This explains that assistance for HSE (and LAs) should be commissioned using form GSSR1; a link to the form is in the Technical support section.
Requests to Gas Safe Register require Band 2 approval before submission;
- For fire or explosion investigations HSL (rather than Gas Safe Register) should be approached (via SG in the normal way). HSL can also assist where there is a need for any forensic analysis, laboratory testing or where secure storage of potentially evidential material such as parts of gas appliances is necessary;
- ‘Expert’ evidence/statements may be provided by Gas Safe Register, an SG process safety specialist or HSL depending on the circumstances. Gas Safe Register should usually be approached initially. Further information is contained in ‘Domestic gas events investigation’ which replaces OC440/36.
Appendix 4: Fee for intervention (FFI) Considerations
- Work carried out by administrative staff (eg Concerns Advisory Teams) is not FFI cost recoverable;
- Once passed to an inspector and a ‘material breach’ is identified (eg, landlord has no gas safety record or work done by unregistered fitter), the work is cost recoverable as is any specific support/advice from the relevant OPSTD Sector (MTU/Utilities section);
- However, time spent by any Gas Safe Register (GSR) personnel is not chargeable under FFI because of the terms of the service concession agreement with GSR;
- The costs of the inspector’s time are recoverable without the need for a site visit where sufficient evidence of a material breach is available. For example:
- using evidence from Gas Safe Register of ‘At Risk’ or ‘Immediately Dangerous’ work by an unregistered fitter, supported by evidence from the householder, or
- evidence of a tenanted property where annual safety checks are not demonstrated to have been done/evidence of poor maintenance)
- When deciding how to apportion any charges where there are multiple dutyholders (e.g. landlord & engineer) refer to the existing instructions on FFI procedure.