Joining the Gas Safe Register is a rite of passage for all trainee gas engineers, but more importantly, it's a legal requirement for anyone who wishes to carry out gas installations in the UK. Unregistered individuals who work on gas appliances are breaking the law and may be prosecuted.

Court Gavel

One cautionary example is that of Michael Birch from St Austell in Cornwall. Earlier this week, Mr Birch was fined £2,000 and ordered to pay costs of £5,000 after pleading guilty to breaching the Gas Safety Regulations and the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

What did he do wrong?

Back in 2013, Michael Birch (who is not a Gas Safe-registered engineer) installed a gas boiler in a property in St Austell. The boiler - specifically the flue - was not installed correctly, which the homeowner noticed and reported to the Gas Safe Register. It eventually transpired that, after Mr Birch had finished installing the boiler, he had asked a registered gas engineer named Peter Hopper to 'sign off' on his work, which Mr Hopper did in spite of the unsafe state of the installation.

(Incidentally, Peter Hopper was also sentenced this week - he was fined £1,500 and ordered to pay £5,000 for illegally commissioning the work.)

All of this serves as a stern reminder of how important it is to join the Gas Safe Register before commencing any gas installations of your own. Unregistered personnel risk prosecution and hefty fines, but worse still, they risk compromising people's safety. Had the homeowner in this cautionary tale failed to notice the problems with their boiler, the story's ending could have been far grimmer than a mere fine.

How do I join the Gas Safe Register?

In order to join the Gas Safe Register and legally carry out gas installation work, you will first need to complete an ACS assessment. This is included as a component of Access Training's Premier Gas Course, which is open to candidates of all levels, including absolute beginners. More experienced individuals can undergo the assessment on its own.

Click here to browse Access Training's full range of gas training courses, or contact us to discuss the options we offer.

Does your work day leave you feeling bored and unfulfilled? Are you considering taking the plunge and embarking on a new career? If so, Access Training can help!

Electrical training

We provide a number of City & Guilds-accredited electrical training courses, covering every aspect of electrical work. For people who have little to no prior knowledge of the electrical trade, we provide three course options:
Each of these courses will get you trained to a progressively more advanced level; for example, the 'Essentials' course is ideal for those who wish to learn the basics, while the 'Professional' and 'Premier' courses will furnish you with a number of additional industry-recognised qualifications to help you go further.

Electrical Training for Experienced Candidates

If you already have some experience of electrical work and wish to gain further qualifications, we offer a variety of courses for you, too. Options include:
  • Portable Appliance Testing (City & Guilds 2377) - A requirement for anyone who is inspecting and testing electrical systems.

  • Inspection and Testing (City & Guilds 2394) - This course covers design, installation and testing, meeting legal requirements, and issuing safety certificates.

  • Electrical Design Course (City & Guilds 2396) - This is the highest qualification in the electrical trade, covering designing electrical installations, calculating required materials, and inspecting, testing and verifying all installations.

  • Part P & 17th Edition for Experienced Installers – This qualification will allow you to re-wire entire houses, install electrical systems in dwellings, wire up home extensions, and carry out installations in commercial spaces. 
So if you are serious about a change of career and wish to start training as a professional electrician, give us a call on 0800 345 7492 to book your place on one of our electrical training courses. Our training programmes are flexible, intensive, and affordable - no matter what your current commitments are, we can help you to get the qualifications you need!

It's always been said that plumbers are constantly in demand, but did you know that said demand is so high that many existing plumbers are working well over 48 hours a week? It isn't just the customers that need more fully-trained professional plumbers, it looks like the plumbers themselves could use a bit of help too!

A new survey carried out by plumbing assurance scheme WaterSafe found that over half of UK plumbers are working over the maximum working hours with the Working Time Directive. Along with the 54% working over 48 hours, 26% are working between 40-48 hours - with only 13% working between 35-40 hours. What does this mean? Well, 94% of the plumbers spoken to thought that their long hours are having a negative impact on their family and social life.

So what's causing these unhealthy work shifts? 61% said that they've had to extend their working hours over the last ten years, and when asked 77% thought that the recession had impacted their business. Aditionally, 41% commented that customers think that cost is the most important factor when hiring a plumber, rather than who is suitably qualified for the job.

CIPHE CEO and WaterSafe board member Kevin Wellman said it was "concerning" to see such a large proportion of plumbers having to work such long hours in order to meet consumer demand.

He added: "It's important that the industry steps up to addresses this issue because overworked, tired plumbers could potentially result in unsafe installations and have a negative impact on their home life. Moreover, if we want to encourage young people into the industry we need to ensure hours are realistic and the industry is a well-regulated, safe place to work."

With more work available than what the current load of plumbers to handle, becoming a qualified plumber doesn't sound like a bad idea. And if you choose to take those skills and become self-employed, you'll be able to choose the hours you work. Overwork may be a problem for plumbers, but with self-employment you'll always have that option of stopping when you know you need to stop. Physical, varied, rewarding work with good pay and an opportunity for self-employment. Sounds perfect, but where do you start?

You start at the beginning of course, and that's with an intensive plumbing course with us here at Access Training. Working alongside our professional team of tutors, you'll work your way from a beginner all the way up to a trained professional, not only learning the practical skills needed but also the required theory and qualifications. Despite taking a fraction of the time it takes to complete a plumbing course in college, there's absolutely no skimping on quality as you work alongside tutors who've spent years in the plumbing industry. Not only will they be teaching you the relevant plumbing theory, but also offer their wisdom when it comes to working in the industry.

To find out more about our plumbing courses as well as all the other trades training we supply at Access, give our advice team a call on 0800 3457492 or fill in the online form found here on this website. The team are ready to answer all of your questions and explain things in more detail.

UK weather isn't always the kindest of things and, after some especially bad wind and rain earlier this year, it seems Spring is finally settling in nicely. This good turn in the weather seems to be especially good for skilled tradespeople, with their demand reaching record numbers as homeowners use this time to repair, maintain and even improve their properties.

This information comes from Trustmark, the Government-endorsed quality mark and online search database for qualified plumbers, electricians, carpenters, plasterers and more. In just the last four months, the number of searches across all trades has increased by 79% compared to that of last year - putting the total figure for the year on track to double that of 2013.

Among the trades which saw the highest improvements were ones that would be needed to fix properties after the Winter's spell of bad weather, including expert roofers (up an incredible 915%), flood recovery specialists (198%), garden landscapers (94%) and tree surgeons (91%). While this seems like a huge proportion of the searches, it was in fact only around 24% for these months as homeowners were on the lookout for many other handymen and women to improve their homes. Here are just a few of the trades that have seen a sharp rise in searches this year, many of which we teach here at Access:

  • Plasterers and renderers (88%)
  • Plumbing and heating engineers (83%)
  • Air conditioning specialists (79%)
  • Painters and decorators (77%)
  • Handymen (77%)
  • Electricians (52%)

So if you've ever wondered how "in demand" these trades are, the figures should speak for themselves. If you've been considering a change of a career and qualifying in a construction trade then now is the perfect time to do so. And you can forget about college courses and apprenticeships that would take up to three years to complete - at Access Training we can get you fully trained and qualified to a professional standard in a matter of weeks.

And to make this idea all the more enticing, we're holding a special offer on all of our courses throughout May in celebration of our birthday. We're offering up to 50% off of all of our courses this month when the deposit is paid in full, however the course itself does not have to be sat in May - you can complete and complete it when you're ready to! For more information and to speak to one of our course advice team, give us a call on 0800 345 7492 today.

At this point it seems like the Green Deal just can't catch a break. After a humiliating first year it seemed like things were picking up for the Government's flagship energy scheme, but it will now be investigated by Parliament's spending watchdog after it was revealed that a staggering £36 million was spent on the scheme in the last 12 months.

A report from the Independent highlighted some of the spending the scheme made on promotion in February, including:

  • Over £300,000 on "consumer demand, marketing and communications". This included a £100,000 rebranding exercise.
  • £227,000 to a single consultancy company on Green Deal monitoring and evaluation.
  • £20,000's worth of fees to part-time staff helping to run the scheme. This is in addition to the plan's full-time civil servants.

The criticism of the scheme came following the publication of the latest uptake figures for March, released by the DECC last week. While the figures show that there is a rise in households seeking assessments and installing energy-saving measures, the increase perhaps isn't quite enough to have justified this level of spending. The report said that currently 2000 households had plans in progress by the end of March, a slight step up from February's 1754.

Meanwhile 188,234 green assessements were lodged, which is a big increase over the previous month's 25,138. The increase of 163,096 marks the highest number logged and a rise of 40%.

As for Green Deal Plans, 2,000 household were shown to have plans 'in progress'. Five hundred and thirty two were 'new' (quote accepted), 473 were marked as 'pending' (Plan signed) and 995 were 'live' (all measures installed). Of the measures installed, boilers accounted for 30%, followed by photovoltaics (25%), solid wall insulation (17%) and loft insulation (9%).

A spokesperson for the DECC commented saying that the Green Deal was always a "long-term" project that would deliver results "over a long time frame", but that didn't stop detractors from speaking out. House of Commons Public Accounts Committee chairman Margaret Hodge had this to say:

"It is pathetic when you consider that the Coalition promised to be the greenest government ever yet is spending millions of pounds on a scheme that is not even performing at the margins. Sadly, the Green Deal is looking like it is extremely poor value for money."

Is the Green Deal beyond salvagable at this stage?

The average builder's salary

Ever wondered what is the average builder's salary? What about the average builder's packed lunch, favourite sports team and radio station choice? Well, a bizarre study from door manufacturer Origin has given us the answers we crave, looking at 500 different builders across the UK and profiling their daily lives. The results are in, and below is an in-depth profile of Britain's average builder, covering everything from salary to biscuits:

  • The average builder's salary is around £26,000 a year.
  • The most common name for builders is Paul, with Andy or Dave not far behind.
  • Most likely to have been married for 10 years.
  • Drives around 13,624 miles a year, and would describe themselves as "courteous" on the road.
  • Wakes up by 6.24am, and out of the door ready for work by 7.20am. Meanwhile they clock off at about 5.30pm, ready to put their feet up by 7.15pm.
  • Listens to BBC Radio 2 through the day.
  • Has at least four projects on the go at any time and consumes six hot drinks a day - usually tea with one sugar.
  • A chocolate digestive is their biscuit of choice.
  • For lunch, sandwiches are still on top, with the likely fillers being chicken & bacon or cheese & pickle. Health is obviously a concern, with builders twice as likely to tuck into a salad or pasta than burger and chips.
  • Not a fan of the British weather, with 30% citing it as the most stressful aspect of working life. Unreliable staff and customers each got 19% of the stress vote.
  • Builders commonly support Manchester United.
  • And finally, despite the stereotype, most builders disapprove of "wolf-whistling" at passers-by, with only a fifth of respondents considering it acceptable behaviour.

Sound a bit like you? Or maybe you're in the market for the career and like the sound of this (especially the average builder's salary - £26,000 is nothing to sneeze at!) In that case, a career in the construction industry might just be the perfect path for you, and here at Access Training we can help you take those all important first steps.

Whichever trade you'd like to specialise in - bricklaying, plastering, carpentry, tiling, roofing or painting/decorating, we have the ideal training course which will help you gather all the skills you need as well as gain the necessary qualifications to turn professional.

If you're still not convinced, give us a call on 0800 345 7492 and talk to one of our course advisers. They'll be happy to answer any questions you might have, and from there you'll be able to arrange a visit of our state-of-the-art UK training centres.

A career in the construction industry is often considered one the happiest, most fulfilling and well-rewarded professions. Here's your chance to find out why.

News via HVP Magazine

A new survey from the Chartered Institute of Building has suggested that many construction professionals feel that corruption is commonplace in the industry, with many being offered bribes or incentives during their time.

The survey used a sample of 700 construction professionals and aimed to investigate whether corruption is considered to be a problem in the UK, exactly what practices were considered "corrupt" and which areas were particularly susceptible to them. The sample included over 300 senior managers and directors, with more than one in three (35%) admitted to have being offered a bribe or incentive on at least one occasion. Nearly 38% had come across cartel activity at least once and of those, 29% have witnessed it within the last 12 months.

They placed the blame on squeezed tender margins and reduced workloads, which were resulting in pressuring professionals into corrupt practices in order to stay afloat.

The rest of the main statistics from the survey have been listed below:

  • 49% of respondents believe corruption is common within the UK construction industry, just 2% fewer than the first survey published in 2006.
  • Cultural (27%) and economic (23%) are cited as the main reasons for corruption.
  • Cover pricing is seen to not be corrupt by 20% of respondents. Although, predominantly other adverse practices linked to the construction industry are seen to be corrupt (billing for unperformed work, collusion and cartel activity).
  • 67% indicate that the use of gifts and corporate hospitality can be treated as bribery.
  • 43% suggest that all the stages of the ‘construction process’ are susceptible to corruption. 35% specify that the pre-qualification and tendering phase is the most at risk.
  • Over a third said they have encountered cartel activity in the UK construction industry. Of those, 29% said it was in the last 12 months.
  • 35% of respondents have been offered a bribe or incentive on at least one occasion.
  • 40% do not know if their company has a whistle-blowing policy. 54% indicated that they are aware and only 7% said that they have used it.
  • Respondents acknowledge that the UK construction industry (50%) and the UK Government (55%) are not doing enough to prevent and tackle corruption.

Graham Hand, Coordinator of the UK Anti-Corruption Forum, said "This valuable report shows that despite the introduction of a tough new Bribery Act in 2010, corruption is still common in the construction business in this country.

"That is unacceptable. The law enforcement agencies need to work with the professional and business organisations to educate companies about their responsibilities, and they must act against companies that break the law."

CIOB Deputy Chief Executive Michael Brown added that measures such as the Bribery Act had a limited effect, with no prosecutions against businesses taking place. "If the UK is going to live up to its rhetoric of being tough on corruption, both the Government and industry must do more to show proof of progress," he remarked.

Via Construction Enquirer

It’s happened to us all at some time or other, the job we have been putting off because it’s a little bit too big or we’re not sure how to do it. We bite the bullet and decide to get a tradesman in to do the work for us. Which tradesman? Where do we go to find out if the voice at the end of the phone is in fact a ‘quality’ tradesman and not John Wayne with a screwdriver?

You could go to www.trustmark.org.uk

TrustMark is a government endorsed scheme that regularly checks that the registered tradesmen are providing their customers with the quality service and workmanship members of the public expect and deserve (quite rightly). Trustmark registered firms have to;

  1. A firm's technical skills have been independently checked through regular on-site inspections, as well as checks on their trading record and financial status;
  2. Firms have signed up to a code of practice that includes insurance, good health and safety practices and customer care;
  3. The approved scheme operator has checked and will continue to monitor the firm's quality of work, trading practices and customer satisfaction;
  4. Firms are able to offer an Insurance Backed Warranty;
  5. Deposit Protection Insurance is available for consumers in the event a firm should cease trading;
  6. Firms will be able to tell you about any building regulations you must comply with and may also be able to provide appropriate certificates;
  7. If you have a problem or disagreement with the firm, there will be a clear and user-friendly complaints procedure to help resolve the issue;
  8. The scheme is fully supported by Government, the building industry and consumer protection groups.
  9. All of these checks will give you - Peace of Mind.

When employing a tradesman TrustMark recommends you take the following advice;

  • Be specific and set out a detailed, clear brief when requesting at least three quotes.
  • Ask friends and family for a recommendation and check the TrustMark website to ensure that the tradesman is registered for the particular trades you require
  • Use a firm that advertises using a landline phone number and be very wary of those only willing to give you a mobile number
  • Seek references, speak to previous customers and if a reasonable sized job, visit previous jobs
  • Don't just go with the cheapest, consider your ability to communicate with the firm and the quality of their work
  • Only pay for work that has been done and not by advance payments
  • If materials need to be bought in advance by the tradesman, it is reasonable that the customer is asked to pay a fair percentage of these costs as the job progresses
  • Always use a written contract as it offers you protection if anything does go wrong
  • Agree in writing any changes to the agreed contract value and ensure these are agreed in writing before the work is done.

If you use a TrustMark tradesman your work should be carried out to a high quality and if things go wrong (God forbid) you, through the scheme, have a means of recourse. That has to give you Peace of mind.

- Mark Jenkins

 

Mark Jenkins is the Electrical Course Development Manager at Access Training. If you would like to learn more about electrical work and maintenance, you might want to consider one of the many electrical training courses we offer. These are available for both DIY enthusiasts AND people looking to gain the vital qualifications needed to make the career change to become an electrician. To find out more give us a call on 0800 345 7492.

 

As of the 1st July 2013, all bathroom products covered by Harmonised European Standards will be required to have the familiar marking pictured above fixed to them or their packaging.

This comes with the introduction of new legislation from the CPR (Construction Products Regulation) that will be in place throughout Europe. These changes are mandatory and failure to comply could lead to an up to three months prison sentence and/or a fine of £5,000 per incident. Products will also need to bear a type, batch or serial number, with technical documentation being retained for a period of ten years after the product has been sold.

While the CE mark is NOT a quality mark it does however indicate that the product is fit for its puporse. It is a key indicator of compliance with European legislation and enables it free movement throughout the European market.

Chris Taylor-Hamlin, technical director of the Bathroom Manufacturers Association, said: 

"It’s a serious issue. Fortunately members of the BMA have been fully informed, through our technical committees, for over 12 months about the requirements of the new Regulations and have been able to plan changes to their inventory - it’s one of the many advantages of membership. But we have heard of some horror stories of suppliers who have been blissfully ignorant of the changes and are now having to spend thousands having their products tested and relabelled. It’s hit their bottom line.

"CE marking is a necessary burden. It outlaws non-compliant products, and highlights those suppliers who have no infrastructure for recording keeping and batch marking. These new regs mark a major step change in our industry."

View the amended Part P Document here: planningportal.gov.uk

As of last month the Government has wheeled out its latest changes to Part P of the Building Regulations in an attempt to cut down on the amount of “red tape”. In the eight years since its introduction Part P has been a vital measure in maintaining safety when it comes to electrical installations, making sure that professional electricians have the skill and competency needed to perform these tasks. In order to do certain installations, electricians (and DIYers) are required to gain their Part P certificate and join a Competent Person Scheme such as NICEIC, NAPIT or ELECSA.

The main change to the document is that it is now shorter and has greater clarity, with a notable reduction to the number of works that need to be notified to Local Authority Building Control. The full breakdown of changes is

  • Under the new regulations, any electrical work undertaken in kitchens or outdoors in no longer covered by Part P unless a new circuit is required. 
  • While before installers not registered with a Competent Person Scheme would have to notify their work so that a third-party inspector would need to check it, now these installers can instead use a registered third-party (e.g. another electrician) to sign off their work. This eliminates the cost of producing Building Regulations Compliance Certificates for some minor works, but importantly, the new regulations still retain the need to issue Electrical Installation Certificate Reports (EICRs) for all work carried out within a dwelling.
  • Reference is now made to BS 7671:2008 incorporating Amendment No. 1:2011.

The main positive that has come out of these changes is the potential new areas of work it opens up for Part P qualified electricians who can earn more from inspecting and signing off other people’s work. Organisations have also commended this new streamlined document for not compromising on safety.

However while the ESC (Electrical Safety Council) has praised the fact the Government is amending Part P, they have expressed concern over some of the changes. They believe that the areas that have seen a reduction in notifiable are reasonably high-risk according to data, and so “any electrical work must be of a particularly high standard”.

The third-party certification is also still in question, as the rules for the Approved Inspector Scheme are currently unclear. The document itself is likely to go under review again in 2015.

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.

Thousands of people across the UK and Europe have enrolled on electrician courses over the last few years. And they have doubtless done so thinking of the fulfilling, interesting and varied workflow; the opportunity to meet a wide variety of customers and of course the great wages that can be earned by working as an electrician.

However, when these two Norwegian workers found themselves stranded on a power line, 85 metres (280 feet) in the air above a fjord for an entire day, they couldn’t have foreseen such a hazardous situation.

The pair were working on a power line high above a fjord in Nordfjord, western Norway, when a technical failure saw their basket stuck in extreme weather conditions. They were forced to sit in the basket for several hours, awaiting rescue, but when a helicopter arrived it couldn’t get close enough to them as a result of the driving wind and rain – and was only able to lower them down food, drink, phones and clothing to get them through the night.

After a long night stranded against the elements, in the morning they were supplied with abseiling equipment and – with a little help on the phone from trained alpine experts – began the 280 feet descent into a boat waiting below.

Jan Gunnar Hole, who led the company’s successful retrieval of the men, said that teaching them to rappel down to a boat was the “simplest solution”. He said: “The men were cold, of course, but when you’re climbing down from 85 metres there is a lot of adrenaline.”

The two men underwent health checks at a local hospital and were found to have no problems.

Are you looking to become an electrician? It’s an interesting, challenging job – though adventures such as these are far from commonplace.  Here at Access, we provide a wide range of electrician courses, regardless of your background, age, experience or career goals. To learn more about our fun, flexible courses, explore the rest of the site or speak to one of our team on 0800 3457492. 

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