Gas safety compliance – 6 questions for social landlords

Tony Dunne – social housing board member and former housing CEO – explains there are six questions all housing associations should be able to answer when it comes to gas safety…

Gas compliance continues to be of great concern to landlords – from no access to downgrades. But these pale in comparison to the ultimate cost paid if something goes wrong.

Every year, people are needlessly injured or killed by unsafe gas appliances. As landlords we are all aware of our responsibilities to protect our tenants from the dangers of gas safety.

When it comes to governance, the social housing regulator – the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) – has suggested that an “iron grip on compliance” is a fundamental board responsibility when it comes to gas safety.

As a board member myself, I think it’s important to ask our executive teams six key questions:

  1. Are we monitoring weekly compliance of properties?

Don’t simply ask are we compliant. You’re not likely to get a completely satisfactory answer. More importantly, do we know which properties aren’t compliant? That’s what we need to be asking.

Don’t accept information from the past. It’s not the last quarter that you should be interested in. It’s this week!

Historic information, even recent monthly returns, is open to data contamination. Information in real-time is ideal as it raises standards of performance through constant transparency.

Remember gas safety is not a race. There is no finish line. It is and always will be a continuous process which remains our constant responsibility.

  1. What stock do we own and which ones have gas boilers?

A simple question but if an association has an issue with data, then it becomes a much trickier question to answer. As a board member this should raise a red flag.

No database remains constant. There are always changes. And any changes, such as growth or stock rationalisation, must be accounted for accurately.

You may know when the properties were legally transferred, but do you know when any boiler was installed or last serviced? Who has this level of detail?

Without the total picture, your information is vulnerable to error and your organisation is vulnerable to non-compliance.

  1. Have our policies and procedures been independently audited or tested?

Ask for evidence and don’t rely on assurances based solely on existing custom and practice. There must be a reliable audit trail demonstrating successful performance or the genuine potential for continuous improvement.

How much does your gas safety measure the cost of both staff time and money? Is there room for improvement in greater safety as well as value for money (VfM)?

  1. Are we still using paper based systems for completing landlord gas safety records (LGSRs) for either in-house engineers or sub-contractors?

Much has been written about the benefits to digitalisation. Why do we continue to use paper based systems for completing LGSRs?

To remain robust for the future, don’t rely on longstanding measures which are often labour intensive or paper driven.

Technology can remove many of the issues surrounding gas safety. We praise the use of technology in other parts of the business but in many cases we revert to paper when it comes to something as important as gas safety.

  1. Is there a single process across the organisation for completing LGSRs?

Thanks to mergers and acquisitions, some associations have become quite large and complicated. As we all know, complexity brings greater risk, especially when it comes to processes and procedures.

Don’t let different management arrangements or teams confuse, complicate or undermine simple and robust systems.

Varying policy or practice or data systems lead to human error and directly increase the inevitability of non-compliance. There needs to be one simple process when it comes to gas safety – no exceptions. ‘Keep it simple’ still stands.

We can’t just seek officers’ assurance about full compliance. Get accountability and visibility throughout the process all the time.

  1. Who is liable for poor performance or gas accidents?

This is the final and most important question to remember. Don’t wait for near misses or accidents before reviewing longstanding practice.

Make sure at every level of gas safety there is accountability.

Ultimate responsibility is with us as board members. Don’t leave it to a crisis to review and refine policy and practice.

It is our responsibility to ask difficult questions to keep our customers safe.

Gas safety compliance made easy

The Gas Tag technology can help you answer these questions and more in real-time. Don’t wait for a crisis, contact the team today to find out how you can protect your tenants and organisation.

 

Tony Dunne has over 35 years’ experience in housing associations across the North West. His roles and responsibilities have been varied; including Chief Executive, Group Director and Managing Director, involving a spectrum of working environments from general housing need, supported housing and commercial residential accommodation. Recently Tony has become actively involved with Gas Tag – advising on compliance and safety within the social housing sector. Tony is also a fellow of the Charted Institute of Housing and a Board Member of Prima LCH based in Liverpool.

Picture of Tony Dunne

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