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Deferred repairs to public reported gas escapes

Introduction

Public reports of gas escapes (PREs) occur when a member of the public calls the   national gas emergency service number (0800 111 999), usually to report a smell of gas.  The Gas Safety Management Regulations 1996 (GSMR) requires gas conveyors to:

A gas conveyor can prevent an escape by stopping the flow of gas in the pipe or repairing the source of the escape either temporarily or permanently.

When a gas conveyor makes a decision not to prevent a gas escape within 12 hours of receipt of a PRE, this is known as a deferred repair to a gas escape.  This guidance describes the legal and practical principles that gas conveyors should consider when deciding whether to defer a PRE. conveyor's response to, and possible deferral of, a PRE.

Regulations 7(4) and 7(10) of GSMR apply to a gas conveyor's response to, and possible deferral of, a PRE.

Under Regulation 7(4) of GSMR the gas conveyor must:

  1. attend the escape as soon as is reasonably practicable after receipt  of the PRE call; and,
  2. prevent the gas escape within 12 hours of the call.

Where a gas conveyor does not prevent a gas escape within 12 hours of receipt of a PRE they will be in breach of Regulation 7(4).  However, if this does happen they may offer the statutory defence provided by Regulation 7(10) if they can prove that:

  1. it was not reasonably practicable for them to have prevented the gas escape within 12 hours; and,
  2. the gas escape was prevented as soon as was reasonably practicable after 12 hours had passed.

Further information on GSMR Regulations 7(4) and 7(10) is available below.

Risk-based prioritisation for the prevention of escapes and repairs

Where a gas conveyor has decided to defer the repair of a gas escape, their implementation of a risk-based prioritisation system may support their defence under Regulation 7(10), provided that:

  1. the prioritisation system would have directed the gas conveyor to prevent the gas escape within 12 hours had it been reasonably practicable to do so; and,
  2. the training, competence assurance and governance of the individuals who deferred the gas escape was sufficient to ensure that they applied the prioritisation system correctly.

Where during the course of a repair, which was started within 12 hours of receipt of a PRE the escape is reassessed and subsequently deferred, the gas conveyor should rely on the same defence as with an immediate repair deferral.

Examples of deferred repairs

It might be reasonable for a gas conveyor to defer the prevention of a gas escape if:

Conversely, instances where a deferral may not be justified might include:

Dutyholder resources and prioritisation

GSMR Regulation 7(4) and 7(10) apply to individual gas escapes. However, the provision and distribution of resources by a gas conveyor to prevent gas escapes within 12 hours across their network will impact on its response to individual escapes. As such, the dutyholder should interpret Regulation 7(4) as requiring it to provide resource, and prioritise its use, in compliance with the arrangements set out in its GSMR safety case. 

Any investigation into how a gas conveyor complies with its safety case by making available sufficient resources across the undertaking as a whole is subject to Regulation 5 of GSMR.

Emergency service providers

GSMR Regulation 7(11) allows a gas conveyor to appoint another body to act as an emergency service provider and attend PREs on their behalf.  This enables small gas conveyors, like some Universities and hospitals, to engage larger, more specialist organisations, to take on this role.  In practice, this means that the operator of the local gas distribution network (GDN) will usually be responsible for attending PREs within their area. 

Further information on GSMR Regulations 7(4) and 7(10)

Regulation 7(4) of GSMR states:

‘Where any gas escapes from a network the person conveying the gas in the part of the network from which the gas escapes shall, as soon as is reasonably practicable after being so informed of the escape, attend the place where the gas is escaping, and within 12 hours of being so informed of the escape, he shall prevent the gas escaping.'

Regulation 7(10) of GSMR states:

'In any proceedings against a person for an offence consisting of a contravention of paragraphs (4) or (5) above [i.e. regulations 7(4) or 7(5)] it shall, in so far as the contravention is not preventing the escape of gas within the period of 12 hours referred to in those paragraphs, be a defence for the person to prove that it was not reasonably practicable for him effectually to prevent the gas from escaping within that period, and that he did effectually prevent the escape of gas as soon as it was reasonably practicable for him to do so.'

Further information about GSMR, including the full text of the Regulations, is available in HSE publication L80 'A guide to the Gas Safety (Management) Regulations 1996'.

2014-11-06