41% of UK small businesses could unknowingly make life-threatening error

British Gas Engineer

In a British Gas Business survey of senior managers with responsibility for energy at Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs)*, 41% said their first response to a gas leak would be to turn off the electricity – potentially sparking a dangerous gas explosion.

16% of those surveyed would try to work out which appliance was leaking gas, while 1% said they would shut all windows and doors to keep the gas inside the building. (See our steps below to find out what you should really do in a gas emergency.)

But it seems that some senior managers are also confused about safety equipment and legal requirements.

Carbon monoxide

More than one third (36%) of respondents admitted that they didn’t have a carbon monoxide (CO) alarm fitted on their business premises. If you have a business gas appliance (including a boiler) in an area where people work or rest, it’s important to have a CO alarm nearby, Remember that CO is dangerous but odourless, so workers may not realise they are breathing it in until their symptoms become serious.

What’s more, subject to Parliamentary approval, residential landlords will be legally required to have CO alarms fitted in all their properties from 1 October 2015. It’s a relatively simple and inexpensive device, but one that could save lives.

Business risks from gas leaks

Gas and CO leaks can occur anywhere, and have serious business consequences. One in five of the 509 senior managers surveyed nationwide admitted that they had experienced health and safety issues (e.g. gas leak, carbon monoxide leak or an unsafe appliance) at their current or previous business premises. These businesses suffered lost trading hours (14%), lost revenue (11%) and had to buy a new boiler or appliance (14%).

All employers should know that they’re legally required to make sure gas appliances, gas pipework and flues are maintained in a safe condition. If you’re a landlord, you must complete annual safety checks and provide on-going maintenance.

Stay gas-safe at work

• Look for signs of staining, soot or discolouration on or around your gas boiler, fire or water heater. These can be signs of carbon monoxide. Keep vents in doors, walls or windows clear to make sure gas fumes can safely escape

• Know the signs of carbon monoxide poisoning, which can be similar to the ‘flu

• If you notice anything wrong, stop using the appliance immediately, open windows and doors for air and call the Gas Emergency Services Helpline on 0800 111 999 (24hrs). You should also get medical advice

To stay legal and safe:

• Maintain and service your gas appliances and pipework each year

• Have a Gas Safe Registered engineer who is qualified to work on commercial gas appliances and pipework do all service, installation or repair work

• Keep a record of any gas work

• Take out a service plan if your business relies on heating or gas appliances

• Install a carbon monoxide alarm in your property. If you are a landlord you can buy them online and have it delivered direct to your tenants to install themselves

Get more advice here: www.britishgas.co.uk/business/gassafety

According to Vincent Thomas, Field Service Manager at British Gas Business,

‘I’ve seen some alarming stuff over the years in all different types of businesses – from factories to nursing homes. When something goes wrong it can stop a business in its tracks and have a serious effect on finances, staff and customers.

‘Our engineers visit over 1,000 businesses every week, and find that many customers don’t think about the risks of carbon monoxide and gas leaks at work the same way as they might at home.  It’s absolutely essential to get any commercial gas appliance regularly serviced and maintained.’

*All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 509 SME senior managers plus who have responsibility for electricity/ gas supply and have gas boiler/ heating system on their business premises. Fieldwork was undertaken between 1st and 9th September 2015.  The survey was carried out online.

The views, opinions and positions expressed within the British Gas Business Blog are those of the author alone and do not represent those of British Gas. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this blog are not guaranteed. British Gas accepts no liability for any errors, omissions or representations. The copyright in the content within the British Gas Business Blog belongs to the authors of such content and any liability with regards to infringement of intellectual property rights remains with them. For more information about the mix of fuels used to generate our electricity simply visit britishgas.co.uk/business/about-us. You can find information about how to make a complaint at britishgas.co.uk/business/complaints.