Wednesday 11 December 2019

Lives at risk in thousands of homes fitted with boilers illegally - contractors claim

Thousands of family homes illegally fitted with boilers each year.
Thousands of family homes illegally fitted with boilers each year.

Sarah Stack

Live are being put at risk in up to 18,000 homes each year where boilers have been illegally fitted, it was claimed today.

The Association of Plumbing and Heating Contractors Ireland (APHCI) maintained that its officials walked out of meetings with the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) today amid claims the regulator will not make any significant changes to address the problem.

Sean Giffney, APHCI chairman, said members have lost confidence in the regulator and are concerned about what he called a “passive approach” to tackling safety issues.

He said a recent report by the CER – which states the current scheme works effectively despite an estimated 18,000 boilers fitted without a certificate of completion each year - reflects their concerns.

“We are deeply frustrated that we continue to pay for a regulatory system that is shambolic and quite frankly a sham,” he said.

“We have spent three years highlighting the lack of safety regulations in place under this system and unfortunately this report does not reflect any of these concerns, on the contrary, it expresses satisfaction and our serious concerns for public safety are being ignored.

“Lives are being put at risk because of an ineffectual system and some 18,000 families are having boilers installed each year without the very necessary safety certification.

“We understand that our customers are trying to save money in these difficult times but we are very worried about poor installation standards and the potential consequences for public safety.“

In its report on the industry, the regulator claims it is happy with the current system adding: “CER is of the view that, in general, the scheme has worked effectively to regulate gas installers from a safety perspective”.

Mr Giffney, who is writing to Energy Minister Alex White and the Oireachtas Committees for the Environment and Health to highlight his concerns, said the CER has been responsible for only a handful of prosecutions in recent years, with minor sanctions imposed.

“The current system is laughable and not nearly strong enough to deter black market operators,” he added.

“In the past year approximately 384 Registered Installers have left the register with no system in place to track their current trade activity.

“Under the current proposal, sanctions will remain the same, there are no specific measures outlined to tackle the issue and the current mandate has been extended from a five to seven year term.”

John Melvin, Manager Gas Commercial at CER told independent.ie that the Commision has "legislative responsibility for the regulation of gas installers with respect to safety". 

"In 2009, the CER put in place a requirement that individuals that carry out Gas Works relating to domestic appliances must be registered with the Register of Gas Installers of Ireland.  The CER has since that time been working to improve safety in this area."

"In 2014, there has been a significant increase in the number of prosecutions carried out by the CER against individuals who carry out illegal gas works or portray themselves as gas installers without being registered while, in comparison to 2013, there has been approximate a twenty percent reduction in the number of reports received."

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