A shortage of qualified service personnel could make it extremely difficult to fulfil the gas safety inspection needs of consumers throughout Victoria, even were testing made mandatory by the government.
Concern over the hazards associated with the use of gas heaters has risen to the fore, following the revelation that as many as 12,000 of the devices installed in Victoria during the first decade of the new century could be leaking hazardous levels of carbon monoxide.
Cannon Appliances recently issued a warning that Cannon Fitzory or Canterbury inbuilt heaters installed between March 20, 2001 and October 8, 2009 could pose a hazard to home occupants under certain conditions.
The news prompted 3AW radio host Neil Mitchell to announce that Cannon Appliances should be “screaming it from the rooftops” due the potentially fatal nature of exposure to carbon monoxide.
One anonymous industry veteran who spoke to Sourceable said that the key to ensuring the safety of such systems irrespective of their make remains correct installation and regular servicing.
“The main thing is installing these systems correctly. You’ve got to install them correctly and test them to make sure that there aren’t any issues,” he said. “The consumer should also be having these systems tested every two years anyway.”
According to the source while Energy Safe Victoria is doing an outstanding job of apprising consumers of the dangers and servicing requirements of gas appliances, their efforts will only be limited unless inspections are made mandatory.
“I think Energy Safe Victoria, if you look at the ads that they’re running on television, are actually doing a good job,” he said.
“They’re telling everybody that that’s what you have to do – it’s not the law here that you have to do it. It’s just suggested in law that you get your gas appliances serviced. So at least they’re out there running ad campaigns - how much more can they do?”
Despite the efforts that Energy Safe Victoria is investing into raising public awareness of the dangers of gas appliances and the need for regular servicing, this is still not a complete safeguard against mishap against giving the lack of mandatory requirements and the negligent attitudes of many owners.
“You know what Australia’s like – everyone has the attitude that ‘she’ll be right.’ You ask every hundred people if they get their gas appliances regularly serviced, and most of them will tell you that they don’t’.
“They couldn’t care less because they don’t think anything’s ever going to happen to them. They probably prefer to spend their money on other things aside from gas safety.
Given the potential danger to human safety posed by malfunctioning gas appliances, Victoria as well as other parts of Australia might well be wise to look at the example of other countries around the world – such as the UK, where regular inspections are mandated by law.
Our industry source points out that even were regular gas inspections made mandatory within Australia, the prevailing lack of qualified personnel would make it difficult to adequately service such requirements in a rush.
“We wouldn’t be able to cope here with mandatory requirements – there’s not enough trained gas service people. It would be impossible – did they have enough people to install insulation in roofs when the government made an issue?
“Nah – they just said to everyone when you get out of prison here’s a job for you - you can install insulation.”
The pitfalls associated with the current shortage of qualified gas service personnel could also be creating a Catch-22 situation, under which the government is deterred from making testing of appliance mandatory due to the potential fallout of shoddy inspections.
“If inspections were made mandatory all the installation people would be changing the signs on their vans and saying that they now do CO testing – would the government want to make something mandatory when it could all go belly-up like pink batts?”
The very nature of the profession could also make it difficult to attract enough people to the trade to provide a sufficient number of qualified inspection personnel in the short-term.
“You’ll have to tell all these young people ‘Don’t get on building sites with your loud music and your revved up cars – become a gas service man and tinker with these little tools.’ But young guys just don’t go in for this kind of work.”