In this article
A gas engineer does not solely work on installing and fixing domestic boilers; they can work with a whole range of gas appliances in both domestic and commercial settings. Being a gas engineer can sometimes be seen as a hard job; it certainly can be challenging, as they have to have mastered the technical details and safety procedures for a range of systems and appliances. By law in the United Kingdom under the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998, all gas businesses must be on the Gas Safe Register and registration is only given on the basis of the business having at least one gas safety qualified gas engineer. The Register is not a membership body or trade association. A gas engineer can only be aligned to a registered business and be issued with a licence to undertake gas work on behalf of a registered business if they hold a valid and current qualification.
Gas engineers are well-trained specialists whose skills and knowledge are in high demand. As there are countless safety hazards involved in working with gas that need to be overcome on a daily basis, gas engineers will need to maintain their own safety, as well as the safety of the area and the people around them.
What is the role of a gas engineer?
A gas engineer installs, maintains and repairs gas systems and appliances and can work anywhere that there are gas systems or appliances to work on. Many people believe that a gas engineer is no different from a plumber, and even though the jobs overlap, they are by no means the same. A plumber will usually be trained to work with gas so that they can repair radiators, for example. However, a Gas Safe engineer could be required to repair a boiler or to install a gas appliance.
A gas engineer may install or repair gas cookers, heating systems, or even larger systems for industrial premises or housing estates. They may also work on large commercial projects. As a gas engineer, their job is to solve gas-related problems in domestic and commercial settings, and often with constraints, typically installing, servicing and repairing various gas appliances and central heating systems, often figuring out solutions to complex gas and heating problems.
Beyond boilers, gas engineers can choose to work with a whole range of gas appliances in both domestic and commercial settings including, but not limited to, gas fires, gas cookers, central heating systems, hot water storage cylinders, and wall heaters.
Depending on where they work, the role may involve:
- Installing and/or repairing gas appliances
- Gas appliance servicing
- Cleaning of the heat exchanger and any flue-ways
- Checking gas appliances are burning correctly with the correct operating pressure
- Checking harmful gases are being removed from the appliance safely to the air outside
- Checking ventilation routes are clear and adequate
- Checking that any safety devices are working properly
- Diagnostic and repair of heating systems
- Combustion performance analysis
- Providing quotes for customers, discussing parts and cover options, giving advice to customers
- Ordering new parts and testing to ensure safety measures are met
- Carrying out tests and checks, making sure gas appliances are safe for the public
- Cutting pipes, joining and bending them to fit together
- Altering the position of existing gas pipes to enable redevelopment work
- Commissioning or decommissioning gas systems
- Working with technical diagrams and plans
- Working to schedules that include several different locations on a given day, and travelling between locations
- Providing a full range of services on low-, intermediate- and medium-pressure distribution and high-pressure transmission networks
- Using the latest technologies and innovations to deliver a safe gas supply
- Working safely in cramped, dark spaces
- Working in close proximity to installation technicians, gas mains layers and heating and ventilation technicians
- Responding to emergency callouts that could come at any time
- Following strict health and safety procedures at all times to meet nationally required standards
The above list is not exhaustive. Whatever the environment they work in, a gas engineer will be responsible for ensuring the safety of their work, tools and any equipment to protect the safety of themselves and other people.
What are the main health and safety risks gas engineers can encounter?
Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning is one of the major risks of an unsafe gas appliance; even small amounts of the gas can cause poisoning. CO is a highly poisonous gas produced by the incomplete burning of any carbon fuel such as natural gas or liquefied petroleum gas (LPG). This can happen when a gas appliance has been incorrectly fitted, badly repaired or poorly maintained. CO can be deadly and is especially dangerous because you can’t see, taste or smell it. It is important to know the physical symptoms of CO poisoning to ensure you seek help quickly. The symptoms are similar to those of flu, food poisoning, viral infections, fatigue, or a hangover which makes it easy to mistake this very dangerous poisoning for something else.
Injury from poor, damaged or inadequate equipment is another risk. Ensuring tools are in proper working condition is key to ensuring safety on a job. Inspect all equipment before use and only use if in good working order. Keep cutting equipment sharp to ensure optimum use and cut away from the face and body to prevent injury. Store all equipment in a safe place to ensure it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands and doesn’t become a hazard in the workplace.
The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER) place duties on people and companies who own, operate or have control over work equipment. PUWER also places responsibilities on businesses and organisations whose employees use work equipment, whether owned by them or not.
PUWER requires that equipment provided for use at work is:
- Suitable for the intended use.
- Safe for use, maintained in a safe condition and inspected to ensure it is correctly installed and does not subsequently deteriorate.
- Accompanied by suitable health and safety measures, such as protective devices and controls. These will normally include emergency stop devices, adequate means of isolation from sources of energy, clearly visible markings and warning devices.
- Used in accordance with specific requirements.
Generally, any equipment which is used by an employee at work is covered by PUWER, for example hammers, knives, ladders, drilling machines, power presses, circular saws, photocopiers, lifting equipment (including lifts), dumper trucks and motor vehicles. Similarly, workers providing their own equipment will be covered by PUWER and it will need to comply.
Manual handling injuries have a major impact on all workplaces and sectors, costing the economy hundreds of millions every year. Manual handling encompasses a wide range of actions including lifting, lowering, pulling, pushing and carrying awkward and heavy objects.
The risks are endless for gas engineers who may experience manual handling injuries such as:
- Back injuries
- Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) such as shoulder strain
- Repetitive strain injury (RSI) such as wrist strain
- Soft-tissue injuries to the wrists, arms, shoulders, legs or neck
- Long-term pain in the arms, legs or joints
Slips, trips and falls are one of the top three causes of non-fatal work injuries involving days away from work. Each year they cause thousands of preventable injuries; they can cause various injuries such as bruises, sprains, scrapes, broken bones and head traumas. Around 1,000 of these injuries involve someone fracturing bones or dislocating joints.
Key aspects of slips and trips include:
- Uneven surfaces
- Trailing cables
- Wet or slippery surfaces
- Changes in level
Keep work area floors clean, orderly and dry and keep surfaces free of hazards such as sharp objects, loose boards, corrosions, leaks, spills, snow and ice. Signpost any slippery areas and make sure footwear with a good grip is worn. We will look at PPE later in this guide.
Falling from height can cause serious or even fatal injury. Gas engineers should exercise every precaution when working at height. Working at height can also pose risks for others, as a worker falling from a height may injure anyone below when they fall. Avoid working directly underneath someone else where possible, and ensure that any tools or materials kept at a height are well secured so they can’t fall or cause harm.
When working at height, always change tools in secure areas where there is no risk of letting the tools fall, and don’t use tools without attaching them to a work belt when working at height. Tools being used at height should regularly be checked for damage and that there is no damage to lanyards, carabiners, attachment rings or belts.
Gas leaks, explosions and/or fires. Immediately turn off the gas supply, evacuate the building and inform the police and emergency services. A Class C fire is the burning of flammable gases. These can include butane and propane, which are found in gas canisters used for camping stoves and gas barbecues. The natural gases used in stoves or heating systems are also flammable; these fires tend to occur when leaks are present, or flames have accidentally got too close to where gas is stored. Only dry powder fire extinguishers are safe to use on gas (Class C) fires. Using any other type of extinguisher will at best be ineffective, but it is more than likely to be highly dangerous. It is particularly hazardous to use carbon dioxide or wet chemical extinguishers on flammable gas fires. Class C fires can be extremely hazardous due to the explosive nature of the gas. As such, only attempt to extinguish a Class C fire if it is safe to do so.
The Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002 (DSEAR) state the legal requirements for managing the risk of fire, explosion or similar events arising from dangerous substances at the workplace.
Asbestos was especially useful in insulation such as for pipe lagging and boilers, and can commonly be found in any building that was constructed before the year 2000, so gas engineers may encounter asbestos during the course of their work. According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), asbestos kills around 5,000 workers each year – this is more than the number of people killed on the road – and around 20 trades workers die each week as a result of past exposure.
When materials that contain asbestos are disturbed or damaged, fibres are released into the air. When these fibres are inhaled, they can cause serious diseases. These diseases will not affect you immediately as they often take a long time to develop, but once diagnosed, it is often too late to do anything.
Many cases of inadvertent, short-term exposure to asbestos will most likely have led to minimal exposure to fibres, with little likelihood of any long-term ill health effects. If you are concerned about possible exposure to asbestos from work activities, you are advised to consult your GP and ask for a note to be made in your personal record about possible exposure, including date(s), duration, type of asbestos and likely exposure levels, if known.
The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR) places duties on employers, the self-employed and people in control of work premises (the responsible person) to report certain serious workplace accidents, occupational diseases and specified dangerous occurrences (near misses). Exposure to asbestos is reportable under RIDDOR when a work activity causes the accidental release or escape of asbestos fibres into the air in a quantity sufficient to cause damage to the health of any person. Such situations are likely to arise when work is carried out without suitable controls, or where those controls fail.
Workers must be able to recognise asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) and know what to do if they come across them in order to protect themselves and others. Training for asbestos awareness is intended to give workers the information they need to avoid work that may disturb asbestos during any normal work which could disturb the fabric of a building, or other item which might contain asbestos. If a worker is planning to carry out work that will definitely disturb ACMs, further specific information, instruction and training will be needed. Asbestos awareness training is a requirement of regulation 10 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations (2012), and the supporting Approved Code of Practice L143 Managing and Working with Asbestos.
Gas engineers may work in confined spaces, which is governed by The Confined Spaces Regulations 1997. The various confined space hazards that pose a risk include toxic gases, oxygen deficiency, oxygen enrichment, flammable atmosphere, excessive heat and flowing liquids. Some of the other factors that should be taken into consideration during the risk assessment include lighting, communication methods and additional equipment needed for the task at hand. All workers must be equipped with the correct gas monitors, body protection, and fall arrest and breathing devices, depending on the area that they are entering.
Many gas engineers are peripatetic, meaning that they are travelling from place to place, in particular working or based in various places throughout their day. It has been estimated that up to a third of all road traffic accidents involve somebody who is at work at the time. Health and safety laws apply the same to on-the-road work activities as to all work activities, and the risks should be effectively managed within a health and safety management system. Risk assessments for any work-related driving activity should follow the same principles as risk assessments for any other work activity.
The work of a gas engineer can often involve working in people’s homes. These jobs come with a unique set of risks that can be difficult to manage, especially when working alone. Working in a new unfamiliar environment can be dangerous, exposing a gas engineer to unknown hazards, such as broken stairs or loose wiring or hazardous materials, or working conditions that could put safety at risk. Gas engineers may also encounter dangerous situations such as dogs, verbal abuse or even physical violence from the public or be unable to get help in an emergency.
Develop and follow a plan for working alone in other people’s homes. This could include having a designated contact to call in case of an emergency. Before entering someone’s home, make sure to check in with a supervisor or a designated contact to alert them of your whereabouts. Look for potential hazards, such as loose wires or broken stairs. Make sure to wear the appropriate PPE when working in someone’s home.
Maintaining a safe work environment is important, particularly in the high-risk work environment faced by gas engineers. It is important that every hazard is met with elimination or, at the minimum, a control measure to mitigate any potential risk.
Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (1999), the minimum a business must do is:
- Identify what could cause injury or illness in your business (hazards)
- Decide how likely it is that someone could be harmed and how seriously (the risk)
- Take action to eliminate the hazard or, if this isn’t possible, control the risk
Risk assessment requires making a judgement on Risk Severity. Risk Severity = probability of risk materialising x impact of risk on, for example, a person or people, a business, a property etc.
Probability may be understood as:
- Low (Level 1) – a reasonably informed person would think it very unlikely this risk would materialise in the foreseeable future.
- Medium (Level 2) – a reasonably informed person would think there is a significant possibility this risk would materialise in the foreseeable future.
- High (Level 3) – a reasonably informed person would think there is a very significant or even likely possibility the risk would materialise in the foreseeable future.
Impact may be understood as:
- Low (Level 1) – any impact that is minimal, having regard to the importance of interests affected, impairment of function and duration. Typically, the impact is isolated and short-lived.
- Medium (Level 2) – any impact that is significant, having regard to the importance of interests affected, impairment of function and duration. Typically, the impact is limited to one function or group, but there is a material operational impact and the effects may continue.
- High (Level 3) – any impact that is severe, having regard to the importance of interests affected, impairment of function and duration. Typically, the impact impairs a critical function and/or has a systemic impact and the effects may be long-lasting or permanent.
Gas engineers must ensure an assessment has been made of any hazards, which covers:
- What the potential hazard is – the risk assessment should take into consideration the type of equipment used, the way in which it is used and the environment it is used in
- Who or what could be harmed by the hazard
- How the level of risk has been established
- The precautions taken to eliminate or control that risk
Managing risk is an ongoing process that is triggered when changes affect a gas engineer’s work activities; changes such as, but not limited to:
- Changing work practices, procedures or the work environment
- Purchasing new or used equipment or using new substances
- Workforce changes
- Planning to improve efficiency or reduce costs
- New information about the workplace risks becomes available
Risk assessments should be recorded and records regularly reviewed and updated whenever necessary. Should an accident occur, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) will request copies of the risk assessments.
Why is PPE important
Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 2002 place a statutory duty on employers concerning the provision and use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) at work. PPE protects workers from hazards such as trips, burns, electrocution and falls. While there is some PPE that is universal to many trades, gas engineers have certain PPE which is specific to their job.
- Face masks and respirators – prevent potentially inhaling substances. For proper use and to ensure compliance, be sure to fit test the respirator, undergo formal training, always make sure it is clean and never borrow or use another worker’s respirator.
- Gloves – anti-slip cross-grip gloves have excellent grip due to the PVC coating. These can be used across various industries including for gas engineers.
- Filtering dust mask – for protection against accidental asbestos exposure.
- Bump caps – hard yet lightweight head covering to protect from knocks to the head. Head protection is required by law on all construction sites where there is a risk of head injury. Gas engineers working in dark, confined spaces may also wear lighting attachments to their headgear. It is also important to inspect the safety helmet on a daily basis to ensure that the structure and various components – that is, the outer shell, chin strap and visor – are in good condition to ensure adequate head protection.
- Safety goggles/glasses – the use of eye protection can stop harmful debris from entering the eyes such as flying particles or dust which can cause serious eye injuries or even blindness.
- Hearing protection – gas engineers are often exposed to noise from drilling etc. Failure to wear dedicated hearing protection equipment such as noise-cancelling headphones, earplugs or earmuffs, either reusable or disposable, can lead to severe damage to the eardrum, tinnitus or even irreversible hearing loss in one or both ears.
- Protective clothing – gas engineers should wear the correct protective clothing to match the working conditions and the potential risks of each situation. An example is trousers with removable knee pads which are highly recommended to protect joints and improve comfort when performing jobs involving kneeling.
- Safety trainers – an alternative to steel toe-cap boots, they offer greater sensations underfoot on ladders and steps.
- Fall protection – while the risk of falling is rare, it is not unheard of, so a gas engineer’s PPE should include fall protection equipment depending on the job site and the structures in place. When carrying out specific jobs where there is a risk of falling from a height, gas engineers might use, for example, a full harness, a retractable type fall arrester, a lanyard with shock absorber, anchor points and/or connectors.
- For working with gas – a gas detection system will let you know when there is a gas leak before you smell it.
- Mobile phone – lone working gas engineers require a method to maintain contact when working in other people’s homes and whilst on the road.
What training should gas engineers take?
To become a qualified gas engineer, a person will need to study for one of the following:
- Level 3 (NVQ) in Domestic Natural Gas Installation and Maintenance
- Level 3 Diploma in Gas Utilisation
- Level 3 (NVQ) Diploma in Domestic Plumbing and Heating (Gas Fired Water and Central Heating Appliances)
- Gas Industry Apprenticeship
Gas engineers will have different qualifications, including:
- Domestic (homes) and commercial (businesses and factories)
- LPG and natural gas
- Different areas of gas work, e.g. boilers, cookers, fires etc.
All Gas Safe registered engineers will have a list of the work they are qualified to carry out on the back of their Gas Safe ID card. Gas engineers must hold a valid and in-date Accredited Certification Scheme (ACS) certificate of competence and undertake regular industry-specific CPD to keep up to date with industry changes. ACS gas courses must be renewed every 5 years to remain a member of the Gas Safe Register.
When gas engineers are trained to work safely, they should be able to anticipate and avoid injury from job-related hazards. Safety training is essential for all gas engineers appropriate to their role, and training should be directly applicable to the responsibilities and daily practices of the person being trained.
This training for gas engineers might include, but is not limited to:
- Health and Safety for Employees
- Health and Safety for Managers
- Manual Handling
- Workplace First Aid
- COSHH Awareness
- Working at height
- Slips, Trips and Falls
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
- PUWER Awareness
- Fire Safety Awareness
- Asbestos Awareness
- Ladder safety
- Assessing Risk
- Confined Spaces
- DSEAR Awareness
- Lone Working
- RIDDOR Awareness
Gas engineers should at a minimum refresh their safety training at least every 2 years and participate in continuing professional development (CPD).
Get started on a course suitable for gas engineers
COSHH Awareness£20 + VAT View course
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)£20 + VAT View course
Health and Safety for Managers£49 + VAT View course
Ladder safety£20 + VAT View course
Workplace First Aid£20 + VAT View course
Confined Spaces£20 + VAT View course
Lone Working£20 + VAT View course
Assessing Risk (Risk Assessment Course)£20 + VAT View course
Working at height£20 + VAT View course
Fire Safety Awareness£20 + VAT View course
Slips, Trips and Falls£20 + VAT View course
RIDDOR Awareness£20 + VAT View course
DSEAR Awareness£20 + VAT View course
Health and Safety for Employees£20 + VAT View course
PUWER Awareness£20 + VAT View course
Asbestos Awareness£20 + VAT View course
Manual Handling£20 + VAT View course