By Daniel Hunter

Up to 1.7 million small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) in Great Britain could be unintentionally putting operations at risk because they are unaware of their legal obligations to maintain gas appliance, according to research by British Gas, marking the start of the nationwide Gas Safety Week.

Ensuring gas appliances, gas pipework and flues are maintained in a safe condition is a legal requirement for all employers under the Gas Safety (Installation & Use) Regulations 1998. But 52% of senior managers and above with responsibility for general energy or facilities management, and who have gas appliances, admitted they don’t how often they are obliged to conduct safety checks on them.

Making the most of the economic recovery (27%) and increasing customer spending (45%) were highlighted as the key challenges facing businesses according to those responsible for energy and facilities management. But the research found that 38% of respondents feel overwhelmed by compliance and safety requirements, while a similar number (39%) said they find it hard to devote enough time to dealing with the relevant safety requirements.

Failing to comply can leave businesses open to prosecution and could be putting employees and operations at risk, yet fewer than half (49%) of respondents in small and medium sized businesses surveyed had carried out the required safety checks of their gas appliances within the last year. Businesses risk invalidating their Public Liability Insurance if they fail to have their gas appliances properly maintained.

The research also revealed a wider problem of businesses having no suitable backup plans in place. Although 60% of respondents surveyed who have a boiler or heating system had experienced breakdown in the past 5 years, more than 1 in 4 (26%) said that they did not currently have a contract in place to deal with such an incident, and had no back-up plan in place.

Fifteen percent of respondents said that a boiler or heating system breakdown during winter would result in lost trading hours, and 11% said it would have a significant impact on business revenues.

Stephen Beynon, Managing Director at British Gas Business, said:

“Gas safety should be an absolute priority for all businesses. Our customers tell us that it can be a struggle to find the time to wade through compliance requirements, but the consequences of using unsafe gas appliances can be severe. With winter not far away it makes sense to put plans in place which protect businesses and allow them to focus on what matters - growing their revenues to help Britain’s economic recovery.”

Liz Abbotts, owner of Top Nosh Catering in Leamington Spa, echoed the importance of businesses having breakdown plans in place:

“We’re a busy catering business and need our hot water system to work seven days a week. Even a temporary breakdown would cost us dearly, so making sure it’s safe and working is really important.

“But we are rushed off our feet, and finding time to dedicate to poring over all the laws and regulations we have to meet just isn’t always realistic. The last thing I want is to let down my staff and customers because I hadn’t planned ahead, so the support from British Gas Business gives me confidence my company is as prepared as it can be.”

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