Deferred repairs to public reported gas escapes


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) (as amended) requires gas conveyors to:

  • respond to PREs as soon as is reasonably practicable so that they can locate the source of the escape
  • prevent the escape of gas within 12 hours of PRE receipt

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:

  • attend the escape as soon as is reasonably practicable after receipt of the PRE call
  • 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:

  • it was not reasonably practicable for them to have prevented the gas escape within 12 hours
  • the gas escape was prevented as soon as was reasonably practicable after 12 hours had passed

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:

  • 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
  • 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:

  • genuine problems are encountered when attempting to locate the escape
  • difficulties are experienced in gaining access to the location of the escape, either by geography or traffic or by risks such as fire, explosion and building instability
  • the size and/or complexity of the escape mean that a repair cannot be completed within 12 hours
  • there are other unforeseen demands on first call operatives and escape, locate and repair (ELR) teams at the time of the gas escape in question
  • ELR resources are diverted to other more serious risks that have arisen at the same time as the gas escape in question

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

  • ELR teams have been deployed on routine 24-hour re-checks on other gas escapes that had already been deferred
  • ELR teams have already been deployed on lower priority work
  • local practices have evolved where ELR teams have deferred gas escapes for their own convenience

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 [ie 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, is available in HSE publication L80 'A guide to the Gas Safety (Management) Regulations 1996'.

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