Full story: Daily Mail - 'Incompetent' plumber causes gas explosion

A 32-year old plumber is currently in course after he caused a gas explosion which resulted in a home being 'blown from its foundations' and leaving the couple inside with serious burns.

While converting the former kitchen of Martyn Moody and his wife Theresa's luxury home in the Lincolnshire Wolds into a dining room, plumber Daniel Hickling cut off and capped the protruding gas pipe, burying it under the floorboards. However during the work he punctured the pipe and failed to carry out a straightforward check to ensure there had been no damage to it.

Later the couple smelt gas and began searching their home. During this time Mr Moody flicked on a cigarette lighter and the flame ignited, causing a massive explosion with such force that the entire building moved an inch. Mr Moody, a retired construction and electrical tradesman spent two weeks in hospital undergoing skin grafts after suffering serious burns to his hands, arms and scalp. His wife suffered burns to her legs and feet nut was released from hospital after two days.

The home, which the couple had built for themselves in 1993, sustained so much damaged that it had to be almost completely rebuilt. It was a year before the couple were able to move back in. They were also left £100,000 out of pocket after being found to be underinsured on their contents insurance and thus had to cover some of the loss themselves.

Lincoln Crown Court were told by prosecutor James Puzey that Hickley was "incompetent to carry out this work and it was carried out incompetently. That led directly to an explosion which almost destroyed the property and caused serious injury to the householders." It was also revealed that he was not a registered Gas Safe engineer and failed to tell the couple this when he agreed to do the work. However he claims that he did not know he would be working on a gas pipe and as such never put himself forward as properly qualified.

Hickley has admitted to breaching the 1998 Gas Safety Regulations and performing work to an inappropriate standard. Recorder Helen Malcolm QC has adjourned the case to a future date when she will give her ruling on the case following these two days of evidence.

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Cases like this are a prime example of why having the right qualifications to do the job is vital. Simply having plumbing qualifications is not enough if you are potentially going to work with gas pipes, as not only are you breaking the law and could potentially face prosecution but you are also endangering the lives of your customers. If you train as a gas engineer, becoming Gas Safe Registered isn't just advised, it is essential proof that you are legally competent to work with gas pipes and gas appliances safely. If you are a plumber and would like to learn more about gas engineering, gaining the qualifications required to be eligable for Gas Safe registration, we at Access Training offer comprehensive gas courses to ensure you are fully trained. To find out more click the link or give us a call on 0800 345 7492.

Just over a month after the announcement that the start of the Renewable Heat Incentive would be delayed until Spring 2014, the UK Government has also delayed the introduction of proposed "smart meters" to 30 million homes until Autumn 2015.

The £11.7 billion project has been considered vital to getting householders to cut their energy use as the country faces having to import more energy in the future. These smart meters record consumption of gas and electricity in hourly intervals, regularly communicating the information back to the utility provider for monitoring and billing purposes. While the project is set to start in 2015, its estimated that the move to install these into every home won't be completed until 2020.

Angela Knight, chief executive of Energy UK, noted that installing these meters is going to be a "complex task" and this delay will allow the changeover to happen more efficiently. She said: "We welcome the government's prudent decision to allow an additional 12 months to complete the smart meter programme. This recognises the scale of the programme and the need to prepare carefully."

Energy Secretary Ed Davey added: "Completing the national rollout will be an enormous logistical and technical challenge for the industry. Getting this right for consumers is the government's priority."

However the Government will be taking measures to speed up the introduction despite delays. From the end of 2013, when a customer switches from a supplier who has provided them with a smart meter, the new supplier has to either rent the previous supplier’s meter or install their own smart meter, helping to gradually phase out old equipment. This also makes sure that suppliers don’t lose out when they become early adopters. There are also proposals to require energy suppliers and network operators to comply with the Smart Energy Code and ensure their smart meters really perform their advanced functions and supply data to customers.

Further reading: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-22480068

http://www.techweekeurope.co.uk/news/smart-meter-roll-out-delayed-until-autumn-2015-116011

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/70d66e86-b97b-11e2-bc57-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2TFaAEogR

Part P Changes

In 2013, the Government made important changes to Part P of the Building Regulations. These are the regulations that ensure that all fixed electrical installations in domestic dwellings are suitably designed, installed, inspected and tested to provide reasonable protection against becoming a source or fire or a cause of injury to persons.

These changes to the Part P of the Building Regulations consisted of two principel modifications, the first of which reduces the range of electrical installation work that needs to be notified. Previously, electrical work undertaken in kitchens (such as adding a new socket) or gardens (installing security lights) were among the work you'd need to be Part P qualified to perform without having to notify an inspector. However now these tasks will no longer be notifiable unless a new circuit is required.

There are three main areas where electrical work will still be notifiable due to Part P of the Building Regulations, and these are:

  • Any work involving the installation of a new circuit
  • The replacement of any consumer unit
  • Any addition or alteration to existing circuits in a special location
In this instance, "special location" can mean two things, the first of which is any room containing a swimming pool or sauna heater. Secondly, it is any room containing a bath or shower, where the space surrounding a bath tap or shower head extends vertically from the finished floor level to a height of 2.25m, or 2.25m from where the shower head is attached. This can also apply horizontally, where the bathtub or shower tray has a distance of 0.6m. Alternatively, where there is no bath tub or shower tray from the centre point of the shower head where it is attached to the wall or ceiling to a distance of 1.2m.
 
The second part of these changes to the Part P of the building regulations relates to the use of a registered third party to certify notifiable work. Previously, any electrician undertaking work that fell under Part P not registered with a competent persons' scheme was required to notify their local authority's building control. They would then send out an independent inspector who would determine if the work was acceptable.
 
However, these changes mean that electricians not registered with a competent persons' scheme have to get their work signed off by a registered third party. For more information, visit the official Government Part P document.
 
Are you looking to become Part P qualified? Not only will this enable you to register with a competent persons' scheme and allow you to self-certify your own work (saving you hundreds of pounds), but could also potentially provide you with a whole new area of work when the third party approval system is finalised. Here at Access Training we offer a wide range of electricial courses, including specific Part P Training. If you would like to find out more, give us a call on 0800 345 7492.

The Government has sparked more frustration from industry members as it announced yet another delay to the start of the long-awaited Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI).

The scheme, which was designed to encourage renewable heating systems to be installed in domestic properties and offer money towards those who have fitted renewable heating products, was meant to launch this Autumn but has now been pushed back until Spring 2014.

Greg Barker, the Energy and Climate Change Minister, said: "The RHI, which has been available for non-domestic investors for over a year, is a key part of our approach to cutting carbon and driving forward the move to more sustainable low carbon heating alternatives."

"We remain committed to introducing an incentive scheme for householders too, and have set out an updated timetable for its launch alongside new plans to extend our renewable heat voucher scheme in the meantime."

However this isn't enough for many leading industry members, who have vocally expressed their disappointment at the delay. Jim Moore, of leading heating and boiling manufacturers the Vaillant Group has said: "The Government now needs to deliver on its latest deadline to assist in stimulating increased uptake of renewables in the UK as has been demonstrated as effective in so many European markets."

Elsewhere, chief executive of the Micropower Council Dave Sowden has commented: "Taken with the delay in confirmed the next steps of the 'zero carbon homes' policy, the announcement is forcing the industry to question whether the Coalition is serious about promoting domestic renewable heat during this Parliament."

Coinciding with this announcement was also an action plan looking at the potential to cut emissions from heat across the whole of the UK economy. It focuses on a number of key actions in an attempt to spur on the move to low carbon heating alternatives and drive forward green growth. These include;

  • A £9 million package to help local authorities get heat network schemes up and running in towns and cities across the country, with a new Heat Networks Delivery Unit to sit within the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) providing expert advice.
  • £1 million for Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle, Sheffield and Nottingham to help them develop heat networks.
  • 100 green apprenticeships to be funded primarily for young people in small scale renewable technologies.
  • Up to £250,000 for a new first-come-first-served voucher scheme for heating installers to get money off the cost of renewable heating kit installation training, with up for £500 or 75% of the cost of the training per person.
  • Working with individual industrial sectors to design long-term pathways to cut carbon across UK industry.

It may be an apocryphal tale, but in the days of the Empire it is said that many passengers embarking for the tropics were persuaded to buy small packages labelled "Insect Destroyer", and further labelled with the instructions "do not open until required". When the packages were finally opened, it was discovered that they contained only two small blocks of wood and the instructions "Place the insect on one block and strike sharply with the other".

In these days of Consumer Protection and Trading Standards it might be hoped that this type of con is very much a thing of the past, but according to a report from the Electrical Safety Council, it is still very much with us. The latest manifestation is a range of "plug-in energy savers", normally sold over the internet pr at car boot sales.

These devices claim to save money on electricity bills by doing some kind of "conditioning" to the supply which makes appliances run more efficiently. This is nonsense. The Electrical Safety Council tested four different models, all of which actually increased power consumption rather than reducing it.

More worryingly, all the devices tested failed to meet basic product standards. In all cases the pin dimensions were not correct. This means that the device would be a loose fit in the socket-outlet, which would cause arcing and overheating. All the devices tested were also of poor internal construction, making them a fire hazard. Several of them were CE marked, but the poor quality of construction would suggest that these marks were almost certainly forgeries. 

There have been reports that these devices are also being sold over the phone. Many elderly people have been targeted by telephone sales calls purporting to originate with one of more of the energy suppliers. Often the caller has the persons' name and address, and on some occasions even part of their credit card number. These calls are bogus and originate overseas, many from a holding company in the USA.

If you should be offered one of these devices, Action Fraud (www.actionfraud.police.uk) would like to know. You can also contact them on 0300 123 2040.

- Mark Jenkins

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