Cowboy Gas Fitters

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Cowboy Gas Fitters Report

Make sure your plumber is gas registered in Staffordshire

11/04/2011 by Heating & Plumbing Monthly




A recent government report has called for carbon monoxide (CO) detectors to be fitted in all homes. The Department of Communities and Local Government Select Committee is recommending that CO alarms should be fitted as standard in all new build homes, but should also be standard in existing homes.

Gas Safe Register welcomes the report, but as it marks its third year anniversary, it is warning the public to stay vigilant of cowboy gas fitters.


An estimated quarter of a million illegal gas jobs are carried out every year by around 7,500 cowboy gas fitters who do not have the skills or the qualifications to do the job safely[i].


These fitters are a prime target of the Register. In the past three years, nearly 2,000 cowboy gas fitters have been investigated,[ii] which has resulted in £500,000 worth of fines being paid by illegal gas fitters. Seven have been in imprisonment for carrying out dangerous gas work[iii].


In a bid to keep Britain gas safe, the Register promises to increase the number of investigations of illegal gas work by 50%, investigating another 3,000 cowboys in the next three years.


Commenting on the government report, Gas Safe Register’s chief executive, Paul Johnston, said: “Gas safety is a life or death matter that affects the entire nation and we welcome the government’s call for CO alarms to be fitted in all homes. However, when it comes to gas safety a CO alarm is only a second line of defence. Badly fitted and poorly maintained gas appliances can kill, so it’s just as vital that the public remain vigilant of cowboy gas fitters and get their appliances checked annually.”


Since 2009, Gas Safe Register has inspected the safety of nearly 120,000 gas jobs, carried out by legal registered engineers. The total number of safety checks has increased by 25% in three years – the equivalent of 24,000 more homes[iv].


The Register has built a rigorous risk profile – like a credit rating – so that more inspections are targeted in the areas showing higher risk. Therefore, those engineers and businesses that continually work safely and apply their competence are left alone to get on with their work, while Gas Safe Register focuses its efforts on those engineers that are higher risk.


A recent survey of Gas Safe registered engineers revealed that engineers’ satisfaction with the Register has increased in the last quarter of 2011 – two thirds of engineers (66%) rated eight out of 10 for their overall satisfaction[v].


Two thirds (66%) of engineers have notified through Gas Safe Register’s service. 61% of engineers have used Gas Safe Register’s technical helpline where they can get technical assistance while on a job. The Register has also held its promise to maintain a fees-freeze for three years in a row.


Paul added: “The Register was launched in 2009 to deliver a sharper focus on gas safety and to protect the public from dangerous and illegal work. We have made significant improvements: before we launched in 2009 only seven in 10 people understood gas risks and that a register existed. We have now increased this awareness to eight in 10 people, which amounts to tens of thousands of people across the country.[vi]”


Barry Sheerman MP, co chair of the All Party Parliamentary Gas Safety Group, said: “Gas Safe Register’s contribution to public safety over the past three years has been invaluable. The Register has provided a fresh approach to raising awareness of gas dangers to the public and as a result we hope this will reduce the number of deaths relating to gas by seeing more people use a registered engineer.”


Badly fitted and poorly maintained gas appliances can kill. In the UK in the last year, 10 people died and more than 330 were injured from gas related incidents.[vii]


Gas Safe Register in numbers, then and now:


gas safe plumber


Investigations of illegal gas fitters

2009 - (pre Gas Safe Register) approximately 500 per year
Now - on average 700 investigations per year

Inspections (safety checks) of registered engineers’ work

2009 - (pre Gas Safe Register) 33,000 per year
Now - on average 40,000 per year

Number of engineers registered to legally work with gas

2009 - (pre Gas Safe Register) approximately 95,000
Now - around 122,000

Public awareness of gas safety risks and knowledge that a register exists

2009 - (pre Gas Safe Register) seven in 10 people


Now - eight in 10 people


Breakdown of illegal investigations since 200


For more information visit


[i] Accent carried out the research for Gas Safe Register in August 2009. To be in scope for the interview, respondents had to say that they personally undertook at least one of four types of gas work (fitting gas cookers or hobs, gas fires, gas boilers or doing gas pipework). In total, 427 people were interviewed of whom 270 were from online sources and 157 were advertising in Yellow Pages or Thomson directories.


[ii] Gas Safe Register’s national investigation figures, March 2012.


[iii] Gas Safe Register’s national investigation figures, March 2012. For Health & Safety Executive (HSE) prosecution details from the past five years, visit:


[iv] Gas Safe Register’s national inspection figures, March 2012.

[v] Engineers’ Satisfaction Survey, published January 2012. 344 Gas Safe registered engineers were surveyed by Accent.


[vi] Accent carried out the awareness research for Gas Safe Register. In February 2009 (Kadence report) the score was 79.12 (seven in 10 people). The most recent score, carried out in December 2011 is 82.83 (eight in 10 people).


[vii] Source: HSE Gas Safety Statistics 2009/2010. In the last year, 10 people died from CO poisoning, fire, explosion and other exposure related to gas and 330 non fatalities.


HMS Property strongly supports the use of CO2 Alarms and the prosecution of Cowboy Contractors.



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