SBHA denies gas safety probe delays
FEARS about gas safety in properties managed by Selkirk-based Scottish Borders Housing Association (SBHA) have been raised following two incidents reported during the last month.
The social landlord confirmed it received two enquiries, and a source within SBHA described to us the nature of the two incidents, arguing both potentially put tenants’ lives at risk.
In one incident, which occurred in Innerleithen on November 29, a gas fitter discovered DIY pipework on a gas main entering an SBHA property. It was initially thought the tampered pipe was supplying other flats, though that later proved not to be the case.
“[The gas fitter] immediately informed head office, but nothing was done,” claimed our source, adding: “This should have been reported to the National Grid.”
Our source claims it took SBHA 12 days to check if the DIY gas pipe was safe: “Anything that poses a danger, a foreman should be there within two hours. The pipe might have held, but who knows? Anything could have happened at any time. It’s the tenants who come first, and their safety. [SBHA] have a duty of care to their tenants, and their employees.”
But SBHA denies it delayed, telling us: “The investigation began on the day the report was received.” Director of technical services, Alan Vass, told us last week: “[It] was identified by a member of staff at a routine safety check of an empty home and has been referred to Scotland Gas Networks. Actions to be taken will be confirmed once their conclusions are received.”
After we requested an update this week, SBHA support services planner Debby Gillett told us: “Assurance has now been given by Scotland Gas Networks that there are no safety concerns in relation to the pipework or meters located at the empty home and that no further action needs to be taken.”
In another incident, which happened in Galashiels, earlier in November, it is claimed an SBHA foreman asked a gas plumber to move an internal gas meter to make way for kitchen units. The SBHA gas plumber refused to alter the meter on the grounds he was unqualified to do so, and it was illegal.
Our source told us: “It is against the law. You need a special ticket to work on the mains side from Scottish Gas. If you’re without a ticket, you can’t touch it. Nobody is qualified in SBHA to do it.”
Despite this, the source claims the foreman then asked another, younger, SBHA gas plumber, who was also unqualified, to alter the meter, but feeling under pressure, they did so reluctantly.
When The Wee Paper described the incident to Gas Safe, the UK body of registered gas engineers, a spokesperson said: “If [the altered meter] had killed someone, it would have been the gas plumber’s responsibility, not the foreman’s. They certainly need to review what’s going on there.”
According to our source, SBHA management were informed of the incident weeks before they interviewed the men involved on December 10, and didn’t send a qualified professional to check the alteration was safe until December 14.
Our source said: “It’s in our policy – we have to attend in two hours. This incident could have killed someone. It put the workers at risk and the tenants at risk. It shows a lack of care. In our disciplinary proceedures, any breaches in health and safety is gross misconduct.”
Gas Safe agreed, saying: “The landlord should investigate straight away. If they do not, they are going against their legal obligation, and duty, to keep tenants safe.”
But SBHA denied any delay in its response. “The report was received outwith working hours, the investigation began the next working day,” a spokesperson told us.
Mr Vass confirmed: “The issue was raised by an SBHA employee and is under review. Initial independent checks have confirmed that there are no concerns regarding safety of the gas supply in the home. We are reviewing the circumstances and will take appropriate action as required.”
The Wee Paper understands the investigation is still ongoing.
Mr Vass added: “SBHA has in place clear procedures and standards for ensuring that gas appliances are safely installed and maintained. Both are unusual incidents and we wish to reassure all SBHA tenants that our servicing and maintenance routines for gas safety continue to be regularly reviewed, tested and audited.”
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Weather for Selkirk
Wednesday 19 June 2013
Temperature: 8 C to 20 C
Wind Speed: 15 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 10 C to 19 C
Wind Speed: 15 mph
Wind direction: South east