More than half a million small businesses in Britain could be leaving themselves, and their employees, open to operational risk because they don’t fully understand their legal obligations around gas appliances.

Research conducted by British Gas has revealed widespread confusion among business owners as to how often gas safety checks should take place – a legal requirement for employers under the Health & Safety at Work Act. Almost a third of the businesses polled failed to identify the correct answer of once a year, with 16 per cent believing it was actually once every two years, and a worrying seven per cent thought it was once every five years.

Thirty four per cent of businesses blamed time constraints on their failure to grasp the relevant safety requirements. Regardless of this, failure to comply with business gas law could put employees at risk and, in some cases, businesses could face prosecution.

 

Staying safe

Speaking about the results, Liz Robinson, a British Gas engineer, said: “For businesses, their main priority in the current climate is to ensure the smooth running of their organisation. This means that other issues, such as checking whether they have a safe boiler, can fall by the wayside.

“Regular safety checks on all gas appliances are required by law, but having a working boiler is imperative from a safety perspective too. A safe boiler also reduces the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Because carbon monoxide has no taste, smell or colour, businesses should also ensure they fit an audible carbon monoxide alarm.”

Lack of planning

While over one million SMEs aren’t aware of the health and safety checks required of them, there is a wider problem of businesses not having a backup plan in place. Half of the small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) polled said they would only deal with a breakdown of their boiler or heating systems when it happened, rather than taking preventative measures – despite two fifths of SMEs being acutely aware that this could have wide-ranging implications.

The Otter and Fish restaurant in Darlington experienced at first hand the inconvenience an emergency breakdown can cause. A faulty memory card was at fault for their boiler breaking down in October, leaving the restaurant without central heating for a fortnight and having to use an emergency immersion heater for all the hot water. Restaurant owner, Richard Weeks, said: “Before the breakdown we didn’t realise the hassle a broker boiler would cause us, or the loss of time and money. Since the breakdown, we make sure we carry out regular checks on our boiler and we now have a care plan to make sure this doesn’t happen again. Like everything in life you tend to take things for granted – but we won’t be doing that with our boiler again!”

The research also found that nearly half (44%) of respondents sometimes found the information available on compliance and safety regulations confusing. To help guide SMEs through this red-tape minefield, in our next blog we have put together a list of top tips to avoid putting your operation at risk along with some guidance on the safety requirements that businesses have to comply with.

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