Fife householders’ COVID fears lead to 180 gas safety inspections being cancelled

Pic: John DevlinPic: John Devlin
Pic: John Devlin
Fife housing bosses have pleaded with tenants to allow gas safety inspections to go ahead where possible after more than 180 home visits were foiled by Covid-19.

The council’s environment, finance and communities scrutiny committee heard that residents were concerned about letting gas engineers into their homes to inspect appliances amid fears of coronavirus.

A total of 35 safety inspection dates were missed in 2019/20, just as coronavirus took hold - but 180 have been missed in 2020/21 to date.

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While the vast majority of the refusals - 151 in all - were deemed reasonable because individuals were shielding, officers say there have been times where workers should have been permitted to enter.

Councils and registered social landlords are required to inform the Scottish Housing Regulator if they fail to meet any of their statutory responsibilities, including conducting gas safety inspections on time.

While it insists the safety of tenants is paramount, the Scottish Housing Regulator is granting councils exemptions to missing these dates if the reasons are linked to the pandemic.

John Mills, head of housing services, said: “There’s certainly been a big disruption to council services.

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“We’re missing the anniversary of the gas safety certificates expiring.

“The main difficulty we face is a lack of confidence by tenants to let strangers into their homes and I can fully appreciate the psychology of that.

“We try our very best to reassure tenants that there are safety measures in place, and we have PPE - but we are not pushing over the threshold.”

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Committee convener Tim Brett asked if there were any exemptions to this where staff could push harder to enter..

Mr Mills replied: “If there are any gas leaks reported we will come into the property and do our best to make sure they are not at any risk.

"We're following Health and Safety Executive guidance...we will try to go over the threshold if we can.

He added: “If there are any reports or anxieties from a gas technician we will seek to go into a property and it could be forced access - but that is a very last resort."

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