Research carried out by the Gas Industry Safety Group (GISG) has revealed a disparity in the quality of gas engineer training in the UK. This comes after recent figures show an increase in unsafe gas work, from a volume of 1% to 5%, by recently qualified engineers in the UK.
The GISG carried out in-depth interviews with a range of gas engineers that had qualified within the last 18 months, asking questions about the length of the courses, the weighting of theory and practical aspects, placements with gas engineers and the portfolios they had to complete.
The findings showed that whilst the training of British Gas engineers consisted of a 2 year apprentice training course, which included 12 weeks at a British Gas “academy” and various work placements with qualified gas engineers, other non-apprenticeship courses ranged from a month full-time to 6 months on and off. As a result of these shorter and more intense courses, a significant number of engineers felt that there was a greater emphasis on the theory and not enough on the practical work, in order to ensure all content was covered in a shorter timeframe.
In response to the findings, Chris Bielby, chairman of the GISG and co-chair of the All Fuels Action Forum and APPCOG, said:
“The GISG is shocked and disappointed by these research findings as they highlight a fundamental flaw in the gas industry, which ultimately could affect the safety of customers. It is paramount that we as an industry work together to ensure high standards of gas engineer training and capability are upheld across the country. We call on the government and industry to undertake a review to establish minimum standards of training across all gas engineer training programmes.”
Although the recently qualified engineers did praise the quality of their instructors, most of who had a strong background in gas safety and engineering, the research found resounding faults in the duration of non-apprenticeship courses and the balance of theory and practical aspects of these courses as a result of this.