Many responsible for ensuring gas safety within homes had hoped that the validity of the annual Landlords Gas Safety Record (LGSR) would be extended by 6 months to reduce the need to enter properties during the coronavirus lockdown.
However, unlike car MOTs, requests for an extension have not been granted. Instead, the Health and Safety Executive have said that “landlords must demonstrate they have taken reasonable steps to gain access to properties”.
As we continue to live with the lockdown, it is no surprise to see that gas engineers are struggling to gain access to properties. Statistics show that in the middle of April, the ‘no access rate’ peaked at 49% and few are experiencing a ‘no access rate’ of anything below 30%.
These statistics make the possibility of becoming non-compliant a very real and likely risk for social landlords across the country – a daunting place to be when compliance is such a high priority for the housing sector at the moment.
So what can be done about it?
Minimising the likelihood of gas safety non-compliance
Of course the number one aim needs to be to minimise the possibility of LGSRs becoming out of date. The greatest tool for achieving this is communication across multiple levels. Here’s a useful checklist to ensure you have everything covered.
- Explain the purpose of the appointment and the safety motivations behind the annual check.
- Detail what is involved during the visit and the likely timescales.
- Advise of the safety measures you have in place to minimise the risk of spreading the virus.
- Provide details of the appointment when first booked, reminders on the approach of the appointment and expected arrival times on the day.
- Provide alternative communication channels where possible to give as much flexibility to tenants as possible.
- Reiterate why it is important to continue to carry out these checks.
- Share what is expected of them in their role, and what is not expected.
- Provide guidance on how to respond to varying scenarios once on site.
- Ensure they fully understand the risk assessments and safety measures they need to adhere to to maintain their safety.
- Give engineers as much detail of each visit as possible.
- Provide quick and easy communication channels for your engineers to talk to their office based colleagues and vice versa.
- Ensure your managers gather frequent feedback to ensure the mental and physical wellbeing of their team.
- Have clear sight of which jobs were completed and which weren’t.
In unprecedented times such as this, it is well considered communication that will ease fears and give you the greatest chance of completing gas safety checks. However, a drive to meet regulatory requirements cannot supersede the safety of tenants and engineers, which means that inevitably, some LGSRs will expire in the coming weeks and months. We therefore also need to consider how to manage this non-compliance to ensure the situation is reversed as quickly as possible when it is safer to do so.
Managing the risk of non-compliance
There are three main areas to consider when managing your out of date LGSRs.
Keep a record of everything
The Health and Safety Executive is asking you to take “reasonable steps” to gain access, so you need to ensure you have irrefutable evidence that this has occurred. You will need to store a record of all communication attempts with the tenant, attempted visits and the reasons for not being able to carry out the gas safety check. These should be date stamped and automated wherever possible to prevent misinformation or data gaps.
For the appointments you are unable to complete, each one will need to sit high on the agenda when it is safe to attend. Based on the data you have gathered above, you will know the likely timescales of when the check can take place, i.e. ‘in two weeks when their precautionary self-isolation ends’ or ‘when the lockdown is completely lifted because the tenant is an extremely high risk individual’. Reschedule each appointment accordingly with a task to check in with the tenants at the appropriate time to establish if it would be safe to visit. By rescheduling the appointments now, you will prevent annual checks from becoming overlooked when the quantity of work ramps up.
Maximise your efficiencies
There is no sugar coating the fact that when the lockdown is lifted, there is going to be a huge amount of work to do. As well as the lapsed LGSRs there will be many more fast approaching their deadline. In order to complete this work, now is the time to ensure your working practices are as efficient as possible. Do you have clear step-by-step processes that every engineer follows? Can they quickly and easily record job details? Are there any steps within the process that could be improved or shortened? Any opportunity to increase efficiencies now will lead to higher productivity when restrictions ease. And when that increase in productivity directly improves the safety of people within their homes, there has never been a more pertinent time to improve efficiencies.
If you would like to have a look at how Oneserve’s job management software can help you improve your efficiencies, increase job visibility, communicate more effectively and help you evidence compliance, please contact our team of friendly advisers or request a demo today.
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