The maintenance of a safe working environment, including the provision and maintenance of safe work equipment are of vital importance for the safe, compliant, and effective operation of any Care Sector Premises. Care Home Operators have significant legal duties which require them to protect the health, safety and welfare of their staff, service users and anyone else who may be affected by their activities. Failure to meet these duties can result in extremely serious, harmful, consequences for any individuals at risk, as well as serious financial and legal costs for any businesses and its directors.
Recent news from the Health & Safety Executive should serve as a reminder to all Care Home operators that it’s not just the risks associated with specific work equipment that need to be controlled but also the specific risks brought to the premises by the contractors who are directed to install, service and maintain that equipment.
Gas appliances such as ovens, cookers, heaters, and boilers must be properly installed and maintained, if they’re not they present a real danger to your premises and its occupants, through the potential for gas leaks, fires and explosions as well as escape of carbon monoxide (CO) resulting in potential for poisoning.
The Gas Safety (Installation & Use) Regulations 1998 make it clear that an employer is required to ensure that any gas appliance at their place of work is maintained in a safe condition to prevent risk of injury and also to take reasonable steps to ensure that anyone working on their gas installations or appliances is approved and suitably competent to do so. General duties of employers under the Health & Safety at Work Act also apply here, and as such it’s the responsibility of the care home operator to both maintain gas appliances in a safe condition and to ensure that any contracted works are carried out by qualified, competent people.
If you’re an employer in control of care home premises, then you must take reasonable steps to ensure contractors are competent to carry out any work you employ them to do. When it comes to Gas Safety, these steps should include checking that the contractor you plan to employ is competent and Gas Safe Registered. This can be done quickly and easily at https://www.gassaferegister.co.uk/.
The Health and Safety Executive recently brought the prosecution of a gas fitter to Exeter Crown Court. The court heard that on Christmas Eve in 2020 the gas fitter had carried out installation of a new gas range cooker after he had damaged the existing equipment during a kitchen refurbishment. Staff at the care home had difficulty operating the equipment over the next 24 hours before calling out a Gas Safe Registered engineer to investigate the problem. A substantial Gas Leak was discovered between the gas supply and the cooker connection.
HSE Investigations found that the gas fitter was not registered with the Gas Safe Register and was therefore not permitted to carry out the works. As a result he was sentenced to a total of 12 months imprisonment for 2 separate breaches of the Regulations, was ordered to undertake 120 hours unpaid work and to pay £2000 costs.
The HSE Inspector remarked that “All gas work must be carried out by Gas Safe registered engineers to ensure the highest standards are met to prevent injury and loss of life.”
In this latest HSE prosecution case, the consequences of non-compliance and attentions of the HSE were directed at the contractor competing the works and fortunately no-one was harmed. It’s clear however that this could have ended very differently and resulted in significant consequences for the occupants of the premises and the employer.