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'No Excuses' approach to gas safety needed as dangerous appliances found in a quarter of UK homes

  • 7 million homes in the UK (1 in 4) have dangerous gas appliances
  • 1 in 3 people use excuses twice a week to get out of doing the things they know they should
  • Educating Yorkshire’s Matthew Burton teams up with gas engineers to teach lessons on the dangers of unsafe gas
  • Safety experts warn against ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ mentality

The nation’s favourite headteacher, Educating Yorkshire’s Matthew Burton, has joined forces with registered gas engineers across the country to urge people to stop making excuses for ignoring safety this Gas Safety Week (13-19 September).   

A third of UK adults (33%) make excuses at least twice a week to get out of, or put off, doing things they know they should do, with avoiding household chores the top reason for persistent excuse making (cited by 51%). Over half of Brits (55%) have used an excuse to skip work and two thirds (64%) to side-step socialising. New research* from independent body, Gas Safe Register, also shows one in three people (31%) have used excuses to get out of having their home gas appliances safety checked, despite over three quarters (79%) saying they would never make excuses if their loved ones’ safety was at risk.

The latest inspection figures from Gas Safe Register** demonstrate just how real these risks are and why excuses aren’t worth making. Nearly 7 million homes in the UK – one in four – house potentially dangerous gas appliances, including boilers, cookers and gas fires. If left unchecked, these faults can pose a threat to life from gas leaks, fires, carbon monoxide poisoning and explosions.

Mr Burton admits he thought he'd heard every excuse in the book from his pupils until he spoke to Gas Safe registered engineers about the tall tales they commonly hear. Insights from over 500 Gas Safe registered engineers*** show most householders commonly use 'if it ain't broke don't fix it' as an excuse for skipping annual gas safety checks, failing to see the point if everything appears to be working fine, even though this could be masking lethal faults. Further far fetched excuses they've been faced with include: 'The parrot doesn't like gas fitters.'; 'I used a wine bottle cork to stop gas coming out of the wall'; 'I just open the window if it starts smelling of gas'; and 'I didn't think gas was dangerous.' 

Mr Burton says:

 “Having been a teacher for many years, I thought I’d heard a wide range of excuses, from the old-school ‘the dog ate my homework’ to today’s ‘my laptop has blown up’. And excuses don’t stop when we leave school. We all lead busy lives and find little reasons here and there that sometimes help us justify putting off or avoiding things. But, there are no excuses for not taking gas safety seriously in our homes.  From personal experience, I know that unsafe and unchecked appliances – cookers, boilers, gas fires – can be deadly. Taking action is easy though – it’s so important that we educate ourselves on the warning signs of gas safety, and that we choose prevention over cure.”

Top tips for being better gas safe than sorry:

  • Learn the six main symptoms of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning – headaches, nausea, dizziness, breathlessness, collapse and loss of consciousness and teach them to others. Unsafe gas appliances can put you at risk of CO poisoning, gas leaks, fires and explosions.
  • Check gas appliances for warning signs that they are not working properly e.g. lazy yellow flames instead of crisp blue ones, black sooty marks or stains on or around the appliance and high levels of condensation in the room.
  • Fit an audible carbon monoxide alarm. This will alert you if there is carbon monoxide in your home.
  • Have all your gas appliances safety checked every year by a Gas Safe registered engineer – sign up for a free reminder so you don’t forget.
  • Only use a Gas Safe registered engineer to fit, fix and service your gas appliances. You can find and check an engineer on our website or call 0800 408 5500. Check their Gas Safe Register ID card when they arrive – look out for the yellow triangle.
  • If you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning, get some fresh air and leave the house as quickly as possible. See a doctor and if you are very unwell call 999 for an ambulance. The National Gas Emergency Helpline is also available 24/7 on 0800 111 999.

Bob Kerr, Gas Services Director at Gas Safe Register, adds:

“The vast majority of UK homes use gas. It works away in the background, heating our homes, powering our creature comforts. We don’t think about it until something goes wrong. Usually this means a minor inconvenience like a cold shower, but each year gas safety slips do result in fatalities that could have been prevented."
"This Gas Safety Week we’re urging the nation to take a ‘no excuses’ attitude. Be better gas safe than sorry – don’t let excuses get in the way of the health and safety of your loved ones. If flames on gas appliances like cookers have gone floppy and yellow or orange instead of crisp and blue, there could be something up. Other things to look out for are increased condensation inside windows or sooty black marks on or around appliances. If you feel unwell – a bit like you have a hangover but haven’t been drinking – it could be carbon monoxide poisoning. If you spot one of these signs get a qualified Gas Safe registered engineer in ASAP to take a look. Take a lesson from Mr Burton – learn the signs, set a reminder for an annual safety test and never let anyone work on your gas without checking they are Gas Safe registered first.”

Gas Safe Register is the official list of gas businesses which are registered to work safely and legally on boilers, cookers, fires and all other gas appliances. By law, anyone working with gas must be listed on the Register. Visit our Check The Register page to find a registered business in your local area.   

*Research conducted by 3Gem on behalf of the Gas Safe Register. 3Gem surveyed 2,000 respondents within the UK (aged 18+) in July 2021.

** Findings based on 10,734 UK homes inspected between July 2020 and July 2021. One in four were found to have unsafe gas appliances, such as cookers, boilers and fires. There are 27.8 million households in the UK, according to latest ONS figures. https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/families/bulletins/familiesandhouseholds/2020

*** A poll conducted among 512 Gas Safe Registered engineers in August 2021.