The Golden Thread to Gas Safety – article from AGSM Corporate member A1 Housing

A1 Housing LogoA1 Housing manages approximately 7,000 properties of which 93% have gas or solid fuel heating. We have had the foresight and progressive “lateral thinking” in developing and implementing a strategic approach that mitigates and manages social risk within our service delivery of gas safety. This was endorsed by being awarded the AGSM 2014 President’s Award for overall organisation of the year.

A new and energised gas safety strategy highlights the requirement that Gas Safe Knowledge, Awareness and Communication are vital ingredients in minimising risk to our tenants and improving safety in their homes and also to the general public. These three elements are the Golden Threads that run through a successful strategic approach to gas safety.

Our initial “action” was to attain the Gas Safety Management Procedures Accreditation (October 2013). A comprehensive set of new policies and procedures were developed that encapsulated a robust approach in Gas Safe Knowledge, Awareness and Communication. We recognised the significance of escalating both the profile and standards of gas safety by implementing a number of new initiatives. We developed an independent risk based management priority matrix, which highlights properties with problematic heating types and appliances and have been proactive in anticipation of new legislation for CO detectors.

By the end of December 2014 over 1000 A1 Housing properties had a CO detector installed. To amplify our commitment and support our strategic plan, we have installed hard wired smoke and heat detectors to 20% of our properties. Our aim is for all 7000 properties to have a full complement of CO and Fire Risk Assessment works completed by March 2016. This work is also carried out to our leased properties, omitting them could jeopardise the safety of each block of flats. We also encourage all leaseholders and in particular leaseholders who rent out their flats (Landlords) to physically provide us with an annual Landlords Gas Safety Record.

Once we have an indication of the current LGSR we will send out an annual anniversary letter as a reminder. Our gas servicing contractor provides a service for our Leaseholders at contracted rate. Gas Safety Awareness is at the forefront of our strategic approach. Secondary Emergency Control Valves (SECV) are being installed to multi occupancy dwellings. On completion tenants can quickly locate the valves and shut off their gas supply in the event of an emergency.

To comply with GSIU 1998, we are to install around 600 Service Interval Programmers to tenant’s properties. The programmer is dormant until the advance tenant notification for a gas service is due. At which point a predetermined noise action will sound at a regular interval. The Gas Teams telephone number is displayed for tenants to arrange a gas service.

We are targeting tenants with the worst access records; this will alleviate legal, management and administration costs, which will allow budget savings to be reallocated into areas such as gas safety and other Capital Works Programmes.

We have also embarked upon a programme of gas safety awareness qualifications for all of the Gas Safety Team. All of the team are now qualified with the CORGI VRQ level 4 or VRQ level 2.

We have gained gas safety knowledge and awareness, communicating this information to the right people at the right time is the third element of the Golden Thread. An integral part of our strategic approach is to convey to other relevant departments within the organisation legal requirements, best practice and safety awareness of gas. Members of the Gas Team provide in – house gas awareness sessions, instigated new policies and procedures and are always on hand to give guidance and advice.

Various methods continue to be used to promote both the dangers and requirements associated with gas to tenants and residents. Literature is frequently posted out and every gas service includes a short discussion on safety. We also endorse gas safety through our Website, “In Touch” Magazine, Leaseholders News Bulletins, Facebook and Twitter.

We have also updated following our recent gas safety procedure audit, how we deal with reports of gas escapes and CO incidents. Our Customer Service Operatives ensure that the relevant advice and information is given out to our tenants. This ensures that at no time life and property is at risk.

“It is very clear that A1 Housing as a whole are operating with a great deal of integrity and are to be complemented on their current approach to gas safety” Quotation, (CORGI Technical Safety Manager October 2014,during audit process )

Our commitment to continuous improvement to Gas Safety is paramount; To have an excellent gas safety culture requires the golden thread of Gas Safe Knowledge, Awareness and Communication never to be severed.

A1 Housing is an AGSM Corporate member