Far too trusting Brits putting their families in danger

Brits are putting their lives in danger as they are far too trusting of tradesmen, employing workmen based on their appearance and behaviours rather than qualifications and skills to do the job, according to new research carried out by the government’s Gas Safe Register.

With the majority of people admitting they are generally trusting of people, when it comes to determining who to trust, the most common things they look for are politeness, good eye contact, confidence, good clothing and a nice smile. One in four people also admitted they decide whether someone is trustworthy within the first five minutes of meeting them.

The alarming figures are a concern to gas safety officials as they believe millions of people are letting unscrupulous tradesmen into their homes. Depending on the type of work being carried out, they are putting theirs and their families’ lives at risk. In fact the research went on to reveal that one in five people – the equivalent of 14 million people – said they had been let down by a tradesman.

Although seven in 10 people said they would look for an ID card stating the tradesman’s competencies when looking for a trustworthy tradesman, worryingly Gas Safe Register’s own data revealed that when it comes to gas work only one third of people actually do check if their engineer is qualified, safe and legal.

Jo Hemmings, psychology graduate from the University of Warwick and regular behavioural psychologist for ITV and BBC, commented on the research saying:

“While human interaction and instinct is vital in helping people determine whether or not to trust someone, when it comes to employing a tradesman the only sure way of knowing they are trustworthy is to check their identity particularly for jobs which require legal qualifications, such as gas and electrics. Although we’re seeing that Brits are becoming more confident in making complaints about poor service and faulty products, we still seem to be unable to request formal identity of a tradesman. I know we find this embarrassing or awkward but when it comes to yours and your family's lives it's worth putting that aside and asking for that ID card.”

Gas engineers ranked the highest for the tradesmen people trust the most, followed by gas/electricity meter readers, carpet fitters, and electricians. Builders and plumbers were considered the least trustworthy.

In the past three years, 22 people have died and there have been nearly 1,000 injuries related to gas incidents such as carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning, gas leaks, fires etc. On top of this Gas Safe Register estimates that around a quarter of a million illegal jobs are carried out every year by fitters who do not have the correct qualifications and cannot be trusted.

Joe O’Donnell, 31 years old from London, knows all too well the issues of illegal gas work:

“I’ve wasted thousands of pounds on a new heating system which doesn't have a gas safety certificate because I trusted my builder to check the gas engineer's registration and qualifications. It turns out the engineer was working illegally and therefore couldn’t provide me with a gas safety certificate. Now when I tried to get a registered gas engineer to certify someone else's installation, no one will because it’s potentially dangerous. I wish I’d asked to see an ID card before gas work was started in my home.”

Gas Safe Register – the official list of qualified and legal gas engineers in the UK – is launching a new safety campaign called Trust the Triangle to remind the public that the only sign of a trustworthy gas engineer is that they are registered with Gas Safe and have the Gas Safe ID card which sports the triangle logo.

Jonathan Samuel, chief executive of Gas Safe Register, said:

“In the right hands gas is safe, but in the wrong hands badly fitted and poorly serviced gas appliances can be deadly and can cause gas leaks, fires, explosions and CO poisoning. With hundreds of thousands of illegal gas jobs being carried out every year in the UK, people are putting the safety of their families in the hands of people they don’t really know and whose competencies they certainly haven’t checked. We’re seeing far too many people prioritise cost over safety when hiring a tradesman. “We are therefore urging people to trust the triangle. Look for the triangular Gas Safe Register logo on your gas engineer’s ID card, and make sure you’re getting your gas appliances checked every year.”