By Rory Reynolds
UP to 20,000 homes in Scotland are at risk from gas explosions because of work carried out by “cowboy” gas fitters.
An investigation by Gas Safe Register found that three-quarters of installations fitted by unregistered workmen were “immediately dangerous”.
The watchdog, which replaced Corgi last year, said that the figure in Scotland was higher than the rest of the UK, with the average appliance having six defects.
About 25,000 jobs are carried out by unregistered fitters each year, who work in the industry illegally.
The body is encouraging people to report any fitters who do not have the proper credentials, to be dealt with by the Health and Safety Executive.
Keith McKinlay, regional investigation officer for GSR Scotland said: “Three in four of the illegal gas installations we investigated in Scotland in the last 10 months have been immediately dangerous, and we have had to disconnect the appliances straight away to make sure no one gets seriously injured or killed.
“It’s worrying to think how many more homes in Scotland might have been left in a dangerous state.
“Not everyone realises that different types of gas work require different qualifications.
“Just because someone is qualified and registered to work on one gas appliance – for example, gas boilers – does not means that they are automatically qualified to put in a gas fire.
“If they do this, the work is illegal and potentially life-threatening.”
GSR has found that more than half of illegal gas workers are sole traders, while 90 per cent also do plumbing, 81 per cent do bathroom fitting, and 67 per cent do kitchen fitting.
It also found that 43 per cent of unregistered gas fitters also do general building and electrical work.
They are encouraging consumers to check the back of fitters Gas Safe Register ID cards, which lists the work that they are legally able to carry out.
Suzy Grierson, 41, a customer-services adviser from Livingston, lost £10,000 after an illegal gas-fitter installed a faulty boiler under her sink.
She said: “I wanted to give the work to somebody local and he assured me that he was registered, but I never checked it out until afterwards.”
“I began to get suspicious when he was doing the work but he kept assuring me everything was fine.
“I was forced to leave my home for six weeks because the boiler was condemned after I had it inspected.
“I had to take out a loan to get the replacement work done – I’ve never been in such a dire financial situation.”
Parents-of-three Mr and Mrs Sood from Glasgow employed a local gas fitter to install a new boiler in time for winter.
The fitter claimed that he was registered with the GSR and even said he was recommended to the family by a friend.
However the GSR discovered he had been working illegally. They also found that the Sood family’s boiler could be dangerous and had to switch it off.
Mrs Sood said: “We know how important it is to be gas safe and have always had our boiler serviced every year.
“Last year we decided to get a new, more energy efficient boiler. We asked if the gas fitter was registered and when he said he was we thought that was enough. If only I had known to check for his Gas Safe Register ID card.
“I’m now left with an unusable boiler and we’ve had to go through one of the coldest winters in 30 years with no heating or hot water. It’s been dreadful.
“We’re also £2,000 out of pocket and it will cost us an extra £3,000 to have it fixed which we just can’t afford to pay.”