/ Home & Energy

Boiler servicing investigation expert: ‘I was stunned’

The experts who helped assess how well engineers serviced a faulty boiler were shocked to see most failing to meet legal requirements. One expert, who wishes to remain anonymous, shares his thoughts.

I have been in the gas industry all my working life and have gained more than 40 years’ experience. I am a qualified tutor, assessor, internal verifier and a quality consultant.

When I was approached by Which? to work as an expert, I felt confident I would find the majority of gas engineers to be competent due to the rigorous training and high standards that are expected within the gas qualification, with competency checks every five years.

So I was stunned to witness 10 supposedly proficient engineers carry out a service of a simple central heating boiler, where not one completed this task correctly. In my opinion the services were not carried out to the manufacturer’s instructions and the appliance was not left in a safe working condition on most occasions.

Poor knowledge of basic gas safety

Leaving a boiler over-gassed, and not confirming the case seal is intact are both, in certain circumstances, potentially unsafe – leading to a serious situation.

It was clear that some of the engineers had little understanding of the concept of how to service a boiler or basic gas safety, and when carrying out a flue gas analysis test did not seem to understand the findings.

In conclusion, I have to ask why the knowledge and understanding was so poor. Could it be that the engineers are under economic pressures to complete the job quickly – or is it that training is not consistent throughout the United Kingdom?

Have you been surprised by the standard of work done by a boiler engineer?

You can read the results of our boiler investigation online or in the September 2015 issue of Which? magazine. We shared our findings with the Gas Safe Register, which has promised to look into our findings.

James Davis says:
27 August 2015

As an experienced Gas installer, servicing and breakdown engineer I find it unacceptable that the level of servicing has not been met by the companies investigated by Which?

I feel it gives other companies and service engineers a bad name along with programmes like Rouge Traders.

I work for a company called “South Coast Boiler Services Ltd” and we actually do a lot of work for Corgi Homeplan who came out top in the investigation. We are also a Which? Approved traders.

I would like to point out that although the investigation proves otherwise, there are genuine traders out there that provide a good service.

It does also depend on the individual engineer and their experience. I know engineers that have been Gas Safe registered for over 30 years that have mainly carried out installation work so are not as familiar with servicing and breakdown work and therefore may miss the faults highlighted in the report.

They would have covered the basics in their training but in my opinion I would not want a Gas Safe engineer without at least 6 years experience in servicing and breakdown work servicing my boiler.

The current course takes 4 years if done via an apprenticeship but what a lot of consumers don’t realise is that not all Gas Safe engineers have completed an apprenticeship and that fast track courses are available.

A fast track course takes a matter of weeks. After that time you will be Gas Safe registered and can legally carry out Gas work. I cannot believe that these courses are available. I think it is dangerous to say the least that someone can enter a customers home with little or no practical experience and carry out Gas work. The government needs to put a stop to this but I’d imagine nothing will happen until someone gets blow up as the government are happy for the extra revenue for now.

I would be interested to know how many of the engineers completed a full apprenticeship.

It would be useful if the Gas Safe register of installers and repair/servicing operatives, showing details of their training and experience, and their qualifications with dates, were publicly available. As you say, someone who has spent most of their time doing gas plumbing and connexions to gas cookers might be out of date on modern boilers and unfamiliar with manufacturers’ latest models. It looks to me as though there is a need for a two-stage registration process [or three stages if an apprenticeship is included as I think it should be]. I should be surprised if a 12-week training course provides sufficient experience but it can nevertheless result in registration that means the operative can work on gas boilers, apparently without any requirement for supervision, or probationary period, or subsequent inspection. I believe it also means they can certify that the work they have done is compliant.

It seems there is a national shortage of registered gas workers running into the tens of thousands [depending on which estimate you believe]. Training providers compete to offer the quickest and lowest-cost route to registration. I question whether this approach is conducive to a proper safety system.

Jonathan M says:
31 August 2015

I wanted to write to you regarding a potential Safety flaw of New boilers. They are generally regarded as very safe, perhaps too safe, by some Engineers:

The thing is at the top of a boiler are two tubes with caps on. One is a safety valve for pressure overload and the other which is called the analyser test point is for the engineer to use to measure the composition of the waste gases and hence the boiler efficiency. So once you take the cap off the analyser test point tube and operate the boiler it will start leaking waste gases such as carbon monoxide, now that is ok if the engineer is measuring the gases but what about if he forgets to replace the cap?

Couldn’t happen? Think again:

My mother’s boiler is situated in an alcove and quite high up and the test point analyser tube is not visible from the ground.

My mother, 85, had the misfortune of inhaling poisonous fumes from a new boiler from when it was fitted in October 2010 to when I suspected it was leaking in Nov 2013, that is for 3 years. I called out the gas emergency who confirmed it was leaking gas from the top when in operation and I called my mother’s insurance the next day who sent an engineer who found that the analyser test point cap was off.

When I called the engineer who had serviced our boiler those 3 times, the most recent a month ago, to complain to him, his main concern was why we hadn’t called him first. Also in his defence he claimed that he didn’t use the analyser test point to check the gas, eventually he apologised and offered us £100 compensation.

Now my mother had been having terrible headaches, loss of appetite/nausea and fatigue for a long time and we had seen specialists who couldn’t find anything and when we thought about it these symptoms stretched back to about the time of the boiler installation. A colleague of his had installed the boiler because he was too busy.

So The boiler was leaking for 3 years because the original Installer, had forgot to replace the analyser test point cap. And the other engineer who by his own admission did not use this point to measure the waste gases, did not notice that the cap was off each time he serviced the boiler.

Also we did not suspect the boiler for my mother’s symptoms because we believed the engineer that “New boilers have positive pressure and can’t leak” and he also said we did not need a CO detector.

Fortunately, my mother has now made a full recovery. We complained to Gas Safe first and then checkatrade. Gas Safe decided they didnt need to visit as the fault had already been fixed I dont know what Gas Safe did but they didnt ask for proof of my Mother’s conditions and the engineers were obviously still in business as they rubbished my complaints later on on checkatrade.

Anyway if any good could come out of my mother’s experience, so that this could not happen to anyone else and it would also protect the Engineer, at the end of an Installation or Service a photo should be taken of the analyser test point tube and signed by the engineer and the customer. I already suggested this to Gas Safe.

And an improvement to boiler design would be for the analyser test point tube to have a valve so that even if you leave the cap off it wont leak. I guess I should be campaigning about this on social media, when I master how to use it.

I think leaving the cap off is something that is so incredibly negligent it should never happen, a bit like a surgeon cutting off the wrong leg, but it did happen to my mum and the engineers’ responsible were Gas Safe registered and had glowing references on Checkatrade. So I think everyone should know about this potential dangerous weakness of new boilers.

I was speaking to a Gas engineer sent to service my boiler and I told him about what happened to my mother and he said her life was saved by 4 factors 1) the boiler is so efficient that the waste gases would be at a very low concentration 2) that the kitchen door was always open and 3) that the kitchen’s sash windows were not air tight and 4) there was a window right by the boiler that we couldn’t shut properly.

Furthermore there is a bitter irony about this because my mother is a German Jewish Refugee and managed to escape Hitler’s Gas Chambers only to be nearly Gassed to death in her own home!

That is a worrying story. Many boilers are installed in high positions and in other places where it is not possible to see whether the test point tube safety cap is in place. Have the manufacturers and the HSE been informed of this problem that depends for safety on the installer and subsequent service engineers remembering to replace the safety cap? Given the fallibility of the human memory this is an unacceptable design flaw. There must be a way of providing a fail safe closure of the tube, or at the very least an audible warning signal [like a whistle] to indicate that the tube remains open. A mechanical or electrical interlock to prevent ignition would be better. This reinforces the need to have a carbon monoxide warning alarm positioned in the same area as a gas boiler. Modern houses can be almost airtight and often have very little ventilation when people close windows and doors on leaving the property.

Ismael says:
6 August 2020

I wondered can we sue Barratt Homes for this as we had the same! Potentially serious mistake again lucky we only had headaches and occasional nausea. Sorry to hear about your Mum ironically we are a Jewish family too but not of German descent! Shalom

Oh my God this is what my boiler is doing only last year in lockdown. I had white pipe leaking plumber came out fixed pipe and done service then had to isolate after asked him to come back out he did not and to sort pressure, my pipes got contaminated with spiders ect unfortunately for me I had a cup of tea same systems as you but been very I’ll with bites I have scans ect no cancer had bowel colonoscopy and found infections in my bowel all over my body rust in pipes water board checked water the other week and found air bubbles and bugs ect in water supply from burst water main from floods we had cold water fine now but hot is awful cant bath legs all swollen due to infection and been told got cataracts on both eyes glow worm is my boiler still under guarantee but cost me thousands with leaks ect

Is this a problem only with new boilers? When my 19 year old free standing boiler was installed I noticed a smell of gas on each ignition. I have had this checked by various engineers who assured me this was normal and not dangerous. I do have a carbon monoxide detector in situ next to the boiler but have often wondered whether these detect gas leakage as well as carbon monoxide which cannot be smelt anyway. If only the latter then there is a need for a device to detect gas leakage also, particularly in elderly peoples homes since Jonathans 85 year old mum`s ability to smell would be somewhat diminished as part of the ageing process.

A few years ago I recall a very faint smell of gas when walking past a house where an elderly person lived and very foolishly failed initially to report it. It was during a visit from my son and daughter-in-law when walking past this house my daughter-in-law noticed the same smell of gas. I reported it next day and engineers came out immediately to investigate where they identified a gas leak coming from a vent on the footpath. The elderly lady had not smelt the gas when entering and exiting her house, which illustrates the necessity of a gas detector device in all homes where elderly people live.

If interested, more info re the effects of ageing on smell and taste can be found @ ageingcare.com – Problems with Sense of Smell in the Elderly.

It is a Building Regulations requirement that smoke alarms are fitted in all new properties and those let out but there is no requirement to fit a carbon monoxide alarm where a gas boiler is installed and gas detector alarms are never mentioned [the assumption being that our noses will alert us – as Beryl says, an unreliable presumption]. I have never seen gas alarms on sale alongside Smoke and CO alarms. I have never heard of the fire brigade assisting with the fitting of gas detectors.

In a house closed for several days a small build-up of gas can easily lead to a dreadful fire – it can be activated by the simple switching-on of the light as the tiny spark from the electrical contact ignites the gas [some light switches are worse for this than others]. Luckily it doesn’t happen very often but every year there are cases of houses being destroyed by gas explosions. The media never seem to follow up these stories after the immediate sensational reporting and tell us what the investigators found out about the cause. It might emerge if there is a fatality and the inquest is reported. Vulnerable people living on their own are at greater risk since they are more likely to keep all their doors and windows closed for warmth and have a tendency to cover air-bricks and other openings. They might also have old gas fires and cookers that are prone to a flame blow-out due to a sudden draught that then leaves gas escaping.

If confirmation is needed re diminishing sense of smell in the elderly more can be found @ ageingcare.com – Problems with Sense of Smell in the Elderly. It apparently starts at age 60!
Are gas engineers aware of this when training and told to be extra vigilant when servicing elderly peoples boilers?

It’s disappointing that the manufacture of hobs and gas fires without flame-failure devices continued long after these safety features were incorporated into gas boilers. Anyone with elderly relatives should think about having these appliances replaced.

Gas detectors are not uncommon where LPG is in use, for example caravans, portable buildings and boats. LPG more dense than domestic gas and may accumulate at low level, particularly in confined spaces. I have no idea whether gas detectors are available for use with domestic gas.

D Clayton says:
1 September 2015

Comments above suggest all is not well in this industry. A practical suggestion would be to read the servicing booklet that comes with the boiler ,or contact the manufacturer for details of the appropriate procedure. for servicing. When requesting a service , ask whether the person who will attend , has completed a recent course for that particular appliance. Is there documentary evidence to show the person attended the course and actually undertook practical work? A proper check sheet should be completed and signed showing what was done and the qualification of the workman. Reluctance in the above areas would indicate the need to look elsewhere for service.

Please don’t call them engineers. They’re technicians. Nothing wrong with that but they’re not engineers.
Spoken by a Charted Engineers (electrical).

In my experience not all good professional engineers are chartered and most proper engineering technicians are more highly qualified than boiler service engineers.

But, like it or not, the term “service engineer” is widely used and understood.

I regard them as service engineers or field service engineers and the Gas Safe Register refers to gas engineers, but irrespective of what they are called, the standard of workmanship has got to be satisfactory.

I am very disappointed that there is still no reference to the Which? investigation on the Gas Safe Register website.

Anyone with a gas, oil or solid fuel appliance should have a carbon monoxide alarm in the same room. The alarm instructions will give information about where best to site it.

A carbon dioxide alarm would have alerted Jonathan M’s mother to her boiler being left in unsafe condition.

If you have a gas hob, beware of the small carbon monoxide detectors in the form of a plastic card with a spot that darkens if carbon monoxide is present. I have noticed these gradually darken in small kitchens with a gas hob, even if new or recently serviced. I have been told by a gas engineer that gas hobs produce a very small amount of carbon monoxide in normal use as a result of ‘flame chilling’, but this is not dangerous. A modern electronic alarm is a better option and like a smoke detector it will warn you immediately if there is a problem.

High Wavechange – did you mean to say carbon dioxide in your second para – or carbon monoxide?

There was another near-tragedy today in Cornwall when a pensioner’s home was destroyed in a gas explosion. Luckily he was pulled out alive and the fire was reported as a small one, but he is in intensive care and the blast was catastrophic. No cause has been reported yet but it once again reminds us of how vital it is to make gas safe at all times..

It should read “A carbon dioxide alarm would have alerted…” I’m glad that someone is concentrating.

I mean: “A carbon MONOXIDE alarm would have alerted…” I’m looking forward to being able to edit my mistakes.

So am I. I wouldn’t have called you “High Wavechange” if I had been able to rectify it.

I thought getting high would require more exotic vapours than either CO or CO2…

🙂 Meanwhile back on topic, I wonder why Which? tests smoke alarms but not carbon monoxide alarms.

You don’t need to go under cover. Talk to us engineers or salesmen if that’s what you want to call us . Most Htg engineers who work for companies would love to carry out there work to manufacturers instructions . And the numerous regulations . But the screw has been turned that much. I’m not surprised at your findings . Insurance . And energy companies have jumped on the heating band wagon over the years soaking up the market share of boiler servicing then subcontracting work out at £15 to £20 pound a service

I recently moved to St Neots into a house where a Vaillant boiler had been installed several years ago. The information pack that came with the purchase showed that there was a gas safe certificate and that the boiler had been serviced about six weeks prior to me taking possession of the property.
Having moved from a house with a Vaillant boiler and having had Vaillant themselves carry out annual checks and service I was fully aware of the paperwork that Vaillant issue.
I became suspicious when there was no documentation and when the previous owners were asked for the documents they admitted to either losing them or they hadn’t received any. This worried me so Vaillant were contacted and asked to look at the boiler and carry out whatever work was necessary to ensure safe working of the appliance.
The engineer duly arrived spent 20 minutes looking over the installation and then told me he was going to close down the boiler as it was unsafe, the flue had not be installed correctly and the covers on the boiler, that need to be removed when carrying out a service, had never been taken off since installed. The engineer issued his official system shutdown document which I refused to sign as it would have left me without hot water or any heating. He agreed to not close down the system if I signed a disclaimer, which I agreed to provided there was no risk of dangerous gases escaping.
The Vaillant engineer then took it upon himself to contact the person who had signed the certificate to ask whether the manufacturers guidelines for serving Vaillant boilers had been followed, the guy admitted he had not read the guidelines, had not serviced the boiler as he hadn’t been trained and would do whatever Vaillant wanted to make the installation safe according to their guidelines.
The corrective work was carried out within 24 hours and duly signed off as acceptable. The message I would like to pass on is go to the manufacturer first and only use Gas Safe engineers that are familiar with the boiler.
In this case Vaillant went beyond what had been asked of them with their reasons being that there are too many unqualified gas fitters offering servicing and these give the industry a poor reputation.

That’s a worrying tale. It shows the importance of prospective purchasers getting correct documentation for boiler servicing and other structural or electrical alterations to a property before exchange of contracts. On a purchase some years ago we forced the sellers to have the boiler serviced because they could not produce satisfactory evidence of a service which they claimed in the official pre-purchase enquiries had been carried during the previous twelve months. If there had been a service they would have been able t get the service contractor to confirm it or supply duplicate documents.

I have kept a record of every annual boiler service since I moved into my present home. Evidence of this essential safety requirement should be included on the EPC before selling ones home.

Which? have published a report on Boiler cover companies: “Each year we survey thousands of Which? members to find out which boiler cover companies keep their customers happy, and which are likely to leave you disappointed. ” This deals with servicing and repairs. In view of this conversation revealing sub-standard and potentially dangerous servicing, what account was taken of this in rating the companies involved?

As a engineer in this industry, I have to come to the defence of all engineers. I work for one of the biggest commercial FM firms in the UK. The time constraint put on us on each job, puts us under pressure before we start. The client ( both home owner and commercial building manager ) try to get work done cheaper and cheaper. FM companies are cutting each other’s throats to get contracts with frankly, rubbish profits involved. This is passed down the line to us making us feel rushed even before we get to site. To compete we have to take on more and more disciplines with little to no training.

A typical week for me could involve going from changing a light bulb, unblocking a toilet, attending a commercial dishwasher breakdown, attending an air conditioning system breakdown or servicing a gas/oil appliance,. Along with reports of funny noises, strange smells, various leaks of gas, oil, water or compressed air coupled with my monthly site maintenance of meter readings, legionella checks, emergency lighting checks and checks of just about every applience on site is it no wonder customers get poor service. Not to mention 4 hour emergency response calls for lifts, revolving/automatic doors, car park barriers, intruder alarms, fire alarms that we’re expected to respond to

But hey, slate the engineer for not having specific knowledge about kit that he has no access to literature for on the road, is a nice headline for Which. Easy to put hidden “experts” behind the scenes who only deal with gas appliances/installations and probably have the luxury of Internet access to research 24/7, then let them tear some poor engineer to pieces without knowing his background. Shame on Which !!!

Boy Ian, You let them have it.
What I see in this is that the tv adverts have as usual sold us something we dont need and more important something we dont actually want.
Back to my old theory that if they need to advertise it I dont need. And neither does anyone. The idea that that selling services and items that are not actually in order to keep the economy going is not in the least wise.
There are plenty of good projects that could eat up 1000s of workers.
Many years ago the Uk Gov set to work in Scotland with Hydro dams. Those dams have served us all very well and have outlived just about every other form of generation station installed since. Many at the time thought it was a waste of money just like solar and wind today and their effects on land and eco system have been nothing like the do gooders said they would
They have been brilliant pieces of British engineering and that lasted a lifetime and many have been refurbished and are expected to last as long again.
There are plenty of things that need done in this land of ours that would do some real good.
I’m rural so there is not much of this blanket, service, breakdown type cover around these parts.
For the concerned they call up the boiler guy who is local and known once a year usually in summer and have everything well serviced.
The same boiler guy spends the winter fixing the boilers that were not serviced for a couple of years.
I dont know anyone who services just about every appliance and although I have a broad range of knowledge I have the good sense to agree with you wholeheartedly in your frustration with being complained about
I know the user/customer is sold on this type of contract but its time they knew that specialising in boilers alone needs a van full of stuff. To try and cover every problem is lunacy.
Near every consumer bit of research suggests that taking insurance out on appliances is a waste of money so how can boiler and appliance cover be any different.
Under such pressure ever engineer will simply do as little as he can to get him out the door. That is not service, that is not maintenance.
I had experience of this British concept of swapping trades.
I worked for a company who needed engineers/companies to install machines.
We had builders who thought because there was a concrete base they could do it
We had telephone engineers who thought they could do it because they somehow thought they could do it
We had just about every trade under the sun and our company took all comers.
Ii conducted the training which was a two day course
I found guys texting below the table
I found guys dozing off
Worse still I trained guys who after-ward went no further than their office and sent rank amatuers out to site
I went to France to find a team of sewer pipe engineers working at our machines. Their vehicles were full of plastic pipe fittings
I found builders had installed electrical items
There was just about nothing that did not happen
All repeat ALL of these guys in the UK were reg approved under Gov regulation. The Standard, the testing was a joke. Someone serious about the thing might have been okay but most were just there to get in on the latest thing.
The industry more or less ended up a disaster and personally I ended up with bad heath and would have been better never there. It took two years of head hunting for me to give in and go there.
There are still machines running and will be for some time and most of those machines are maintained by their owner/operators and many of those machines perform well but they are maintained, they are looked at.
In many other countries trades men/journeymen are qualified for their post and the Gov bodies approve them. There is non of this jumping around to where the next big buck is.
Solar PV is another example many will know about where firms start up disappear just as quickly. They were yet again all experts, all with years of experience. Were did they get this experience. There were 1000s of experts within about one year. Impossible, simple.
Just try leaving here as a plumber and try to get a job as a heating engineer in Canada. You’ll have trouble enough being a plumber and if you want to be a heating engineer you’ll do your time, the full time, the full school courses etc.

Just to clarify, Ian, are you an Engineer or a Technician?

Hi Ian.

My title is a Gas Service Engineer. That’s what my employer says my job is called. I’ve also been a Maintenance Technician, the same roles but different titles. We’re also called Field Engineers, Gas Technicians, Gas Operives etc.

To me it matters not. To you it shouldn’t matter either. To some snobs its an opportunity to look down their noses at others. You may be a Chartered Engineer, all you need to know is if I happen to be looking after the care home where your mum/dad are, I will do everything I can do to make them warm and safe.

I used to have murders every year at this time. My now ex partner, used to accuse me of having affairs when I was working late. The truth was, not having any grandparents left I used to make sure I looked after everyone else’s. 14 hour days were commonplace and 16/17 hours weren’t unusual.

Those old people didn’t care what my role was called.

Thank you, Ian, and I’m not wishing to denigrate you or your role in any way. My concern is simply about perception. Engineering is a profession, with the same training length requirements, the same demands and the same intellectual requirements as Medicine, Astrophysics or Law. It’s a four/five year University course before you can start in work as an Engineer, then further research and publications before you can gain Chartership as an Engineer. This is nothing to do with snobbishness: it’s to do with identifying and differentiating the Professional who designs and regulates Gas flow through advanced fluid dynamics mathematics training from the chap who replaces some parts in a boiler. The boiler technician can be equally as caring and devoted as the Mechanical Engineer; more so, in fact, since the Mechanical Engineer rarely meets the individual whose lives depend on his knowledge, experience and training, but Engineering is a profession.

Personally I don’t draw the line that the use of the word “Engineer” must be restricted to “Chartered Engineers”. My employer does not either and a large number of my Suitably Qualified and Experienced colleagues are given job titles that include the word “Engineer”.

This includes a number of colleagues who are Chartered Physicists and hold PhDs in astronomy / astrophysics. I don’t think we have any “medics” in Engineering roles but we do certainly have colleagues with law degrees, for example, to help run the management of our supply chains.

We do encourage our graduate recruits to gain Chartership with appropriate institutions but we do not operate with any kind of “glass ceilings” above which individuals must be Chartered.

My personally background is that I a have an Engineering Degree but have never wanted to pursue Chartertered Status because it has never really been either important or very useful for the fields where I have worked.

I agree. I see little difference between Engineer and Chartered Engineer, the only difference being that Char5tered are allowed to operate as self employed specialists. “Chartered Physicist” is new to me however.

Ian / All – in the last few decades, many British institutions have gained Royal Charters so they can confer “chartered status” on their members.

As regards whether or not one might be a professional engineer (or scientist or mathematician, etc.) Wikipedia quotes this definition “A profession is a vocation founded upon specialised educational training, the purpose of which is to supply disinterested objective counsel and service to others, for a direct and definite compensation, wholly apart from expectation of other business gain”

I so I think that includes doing right by your clients or customers, rules out “up-selling” and does not require your work to be only “white-collar” / office-based.

I’ve checked out Chartered Physicist and it requires a Masters at the very least. I suspect one main difference is in the level of education required. A master’s degree confers a high level of knowledge and disinterest in a subject, so it seems the epithet ‘Professional’ is appropriate only in someone with a higher degree.

This a thorny issue, since there are no higher degrees in Woodworking, for example, yet a skilled joiner can provide invaluable and disinterested advice. And many would regard a joiner as a profession, surely?

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Good man Duncan. Bring back trades Bring back social housing and dont sell them. Get rid of the hoards of managers in the NHS. Dont tell me they are needed because I dont begin to believe that they save anything. Save my foot. The old style system could not have overspent to the tune of these wages if they’d have tried.
Yeh a lifetime of experience, A lifetime of being requested to train and retrain move sideways and specialise to move with the times
I remember selling my LR business and an employee made comment about me having forgot more than the next lot will every learn.
This is the biggest BS system that we have now. Buy everything in. Rely on the London markets and the spin off’s. Allow those super rich to pay near no tax and in some cases no tax at all.
When we go who will answer the questions.

I hear a lot of bleating about “shortages of qualified engineers” but, mostly, I think these are really just shortages of money.

Qualified engineers expect to earn good wages. Any employers complaining about “skill shortages” should try “putting their money where their mouth is” and offering decent salaries and working conditions.

What I am getting at although reading back it is not obvious because I seen parallels with the problems I was having is that I cannot believe that an engineer/technician should not be ask to be an expert in boiler’s, washers, dish washers, dryers and general everything.
Even if you had a broad range of knowledge the amount of tools and equipment required is into lorry scale of operations.
I imagined that the businesses involved would have differing trades that specialised in their own trade
Yes one can move/stretch a little but not this lot that Ian is telling us.
That is an uphill battle and is not his fault whether he is an engineer or technician has nothing to do with it. It’s too big an ask.
There are some of these domestic items that one is supposed to be qualified in and I imagined that first you need to serve your time as a plumber before you do your ticket for unvented cylinder work
I imagined that to work at boilers and there are a few variations you would need to have served your time on such before you would attempt to get your ticket on those or is the UK so lax that one just does a bit of night school and away we go and work at these items.
Many of these things today if not maintained properly are a threat to live and limb
Boilers especially these modern in room are a hazard unless kept properly
Electrical certainly requires knowledge and experience.
Unvented cylinders can turn into a steam bomb although most unlikely but possible nevertheless.
I’m not hitting on Ian or any other of these engineers but where have all the mutli skilled people came from. To be an expert in two or three fields is a big task even for those interested in devoting their life to work let alone just about everything with a pipe or wire on it. I know, I done, It d****d near killed me in the end.
Ian probably has a family and finds himself in a position he doesnt like by the looks of it and if these guys are expected to work on everything to get their wage then they are just being manipulated to provide a service for near nothing to keep the biggies in business.
Just like the supermarkets and the vegetable growers
The customer doesnt care because its cheap.
The likes of Ian, farmers, and those using carparks need to all go on strike. Plough the crops back in, let the boilers go to h****.
Oh I forgot we have all fallen for the great idea of having a mortgage and supposed home ownership, we cant do that.
Mort gage
Death Grip
They have us where they want us but we dont even know who “they” it seems are.

Hi Dee.

You hit the nail on the head. Multi skilled means diluted skills. Not a problem for me as I have 30+ years experience. A newly qualified apprentice is a danger to himself and others, despite being tested and passing the relevant exams. My colleague recently was asked to look at a commercial dishwasher which wasn’t dosing detergent. I heard him say he wasn’t confident about the job to our supervisor, who, basicly told to go have a pop at it.
Result, he thought the tube was blocked, he thought the detergent was like Fairy washing up liquid so he blew through the tube. It wasn’t Fairy, it was caustic and he burnt his lips. Embarrassed by his error, he never reported it. Unreported errors can’t have measures put in place to prevent it happening to someone else. That’s what’s happening out in the real world, engineers getting by, by the skin of their teeth.

I think that proves the point I was making. An Engineer would have known about the caustic solvent, since that would have been a major part of his course. Because repair technicians have to have a very wide remit, it’s incumbent on the management to have warned the individuals about the potential risks, but with so many different appliances to service they only acquire the knowledge necessary through painful experiences. He was lucky he only got mild lip burns.

Also, a properly trained and experienced engineer would have known:

The right way to turn down an assignment that he (or she) was not content to carry out unaided and untutored.

Well it comes down to “time” or rather lack of it again. My company puts a huge emphasis on safety and training. A lot of that training involves being given a sheet of A4 with a safety advisory on, signing for it and BAM, we have now trained your for that particular item.

If we slowed down, my colleague could have read the safety advice on the bottle that was dosing the dishwasher. When your stressed/rushed you aren’t thinking properly. Companies are willing to look the other way in order to get the job done. As an example, a few years ago the company I was with, another national well known company, we’re falling behind on gas boiler services for a well known chain of pubs. They got sub contractors in to catch up. The pubs were sited far and wide, for me 2 a day was possible. Our sub contractor was managing 5/6. How ? By attending site and writing our a safety sheet without checking anything.
Our management knew how many they were doing and therefore knew it wasn’t possible, but, turned a blind eye because it suited their needs. When our bosses are asking us to falsify documents you know your on you own. Again, the client is completely unaware of what we’re up against.

Ian, I agree. As long as everything is done dirt cheap. It’ll not matter how many pieces paper is brought into the system.
We have tick boxes at every corner and all happens is that they get ticked before or after the work.
The health service is full of this stuff. Everything that goes wrong gets another sheet to fill out or box to tick.
No one has time and when they are not ticked the employees end up in the office. Answer. Tick everything because it wont be checked anyhow
Tick boxes, completion sheets and the many other seemingly well meaning efforts are a waste of time. Those who think this nonsense up have no idea of reality or they do not care as long as they can show they put a procedure in place and all the procedures have been shown to be followed. It doesnt matter a hoot whether the work was done or done right or no done at all just as long as the sheets are present and correct
As to idea’s that one has a choice about what one does many employees have no choice. Many have kids and a mortgage and the hard nosed managers know that.
This is where we find ourselves. I watched these type of things take place. The employees had no choice.
I conducted training. I had no choice about who were presented. I had 2 days too teach people who had not a clue about what they had got into. Pointless and I’m glad it near finished me and I walked away.
Bring back time served trades.

A lot of companies say they put safety first, because they cannot actually tell the truth, if they really expect production targets to trump safety concerns.

Gas Engineer here….A good idea would be to use photographs and email them back to the office of work done, ie, boiler case removed, show burner pressures, FGA printed out and stuck onto boiler or left with the customer, photos of complete length of flue, from top of the boiler, in loft space and outside. Photograph any warning notices and labelled correctly. Photos of air vents etc etc. I do it all the time on a voluntary basis, I then put them on my home computer so any problems I can refer back to them. You get good engineers and bad (the bad ones are really bad). We are given upto 15 jobs a day! Half way through the day we are given more, its ridiculous. I haven’t had a fail in two and a half years, that’s because we aren’t checked up on on a regular basis. We can’t win, if we take our time and do the job 100% correctly we are in the office being disciplined for being too slow, if we speed up, we cut corners, mistakes happen and we are in the office again for poor performance! It has to change, don’t examine the engineers so closely, examine the companies because that’s where the problem starts.

I myself am currently in a debate with British Gas. I have had British gas service my boiler for 10 years. Every year I have had an actual British Gas engineer inspect my boiler, but this year they sent a contractor due to high demand for services. This engineer has currently disconnected my boiler, so I am not able to use it, as apparently we have some parts missing and it is now unsafe!! I am sure you are asking the same question as me? How? When you have previously sent 10 engineers out over the 10 years, has this only just been noticed???? I have not had heating or hot water since last Tuesday and just had an update from them to say they still cannot give me a timescale as they are having trouble sourcing the parts! Currently waiting for the service and repair manager to contact me with an explaination and update in dealing with my complaint. Fuming is not the word for it! I suffer with Asthma and they have supplied me with 2 tiny fan heaters in the meantime, and had the cheek to send an invoice for £50 call out fee to deliver them? Which I have since been told was another error and not to pay it. Hmmmmmmmm……….watch this space

I have a service plan with help link and when the boiler was last serviced the registered engineer did not replace the flu test pipe cap…….checked by Wooster Bosch today and deemed critical….have I got a case……been feeling unwell since last Nov when boiler was serviced but having just lost my husband thought it was me just coping

Had my boiler serviced as part of my service plan. Not happy….woster Bosch called out today and help link engineer who did service in Nov had not replaced flu pipe testing cap…..been feeling unwell since Xmas but having just lost husband thought I wasn’t coping……headaches, dizziness and nausea…does anyone think I have a case….

Sorry to hear of your loss, Alison.

Is your boiler oil or gas?

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Agreed – if it’s gas. If it’s oil fired (and Bosch Worcester are one of very few manufacturers who make both), the situation is less clear cut – but also actually less likely to have been an issue for you.

Thanks……..no gas detector or any mention of one…..no document of lack of confirmation of safety certificate……..had nothing but problems with help link…….

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As far as I know their is no requirement to have a CO detector, but it is of course strongly advised. I believe landlords must install them where there are solid fuel appliances, but not gas or oil (2015). The law does seem to differ throughout the UK countries (why on earth this should beats me).

Any room with a solid fuel, gas or oil-burning appliance should have a carbon monoxide detector. Whereas smoke alarms can continue to work reliably for decades, the expiry date of carbon monoxide alarms should be adhered to, otherwise they may not provide a warning when needed, even if pressing the test button does not show a problem.

Gas flames should always be blue and any sign of yellow flames provides a warning that carbon monoxide is being produced.

Chemical detectors that go black in the presence of carbon monoxide obviously do not provide an audible alarm and will slowly blacken in a kitchen with a gas hob because these produce a small (but not hazardous) amount of carbon monoxide when operating correctly.

Alison’s problem may be nothing to do with carbon monoxide but it’s disappointing that the service engineer did not point out the importance of fitting a detector.

Can anyone tell me if is it industry standard or British Gas standard to have Worcester Bosch bands fitted to flue pipes? I have just had a service with British Gas who have now told me according to changes in April this year my boiler is now unsafe to use as it does not have to correct bands fitted to the flue pipe. This was fitted 3 years ago and hasn’t a problem until now.

Dawn, All

I remember British Gas telling me something vaguely similar when they came to service my boiler in about 1998. At the time I had a service contract, but they seemed to be trying to sell me extra (“out-of-bundle”) services.

At the time it smelt like a “hurt-and-rescue” sales pitch, so I did not worry about it.

You may find the web pages below to have some further useful information:




should the combustion chambers fixings fail in a boiler 5 weeks after a service and the service engineer gave it the all clear, also bottom plate was rotted

Hi George, I believe domestic gas boiler servicing is never usually more frequent that once a year. Hence, I’d hope / expect that a competent service engineer would spot and remedy any actual defects or emerging problems.

But I’d also worry that more harm than good would result from letting an incompetent so-called engineer work on a boiler (or, for that matter, a car or motorbike).

Engineer is a much misused term that damages real engineers. Bodger might better describe some.

One origin of the term (Wiki) seems to sum it up – “Engineers, as practitioners of engineering, are professionals who invent, design, analyze, build and test machines, complex systems, structures, gadgets and materials to fulfill functional objectives and requirements while considering the limitations imposed by practicality, regulation, safety and cost.[1][2] The word engineer (Latin ingeniator[3]) is derived from the Latin words ingeniare (“to create, generate, contrive, devise”) and ingenium (“cleverness”).[4][5] The foundational qualifications of an engineer typically include a four-year bachelor’s degree in an engineering discipline, or in some jurisdictions, a master’s degree in an engineering discipline plus four to six years of peer-reviewed professional practice (culminating in a project report or thesis) and passage of engineering board examinations.“.

I would have guessed, incorrectly, that engineer related to the designers and constructors of steam engines, but it goes back further “The word engine derives from Old French engin, from the Latin ingenium–the root of the word ingenious. Pre-industrial weapons of war, such as catapults, trebuchets and battering rams, were called siege engines, and knowledge of how to construct them was often treated as a military secret.“.

A far cry from a boiler bodger.

Hi George – I agree with Derek and suggest you contact the Gas Safe Register and report your concerns: https://www.gassaferegister.co.uk

I guess the original designers and constructors of both siege and steam engines lacked the academic and professional training expected of Engineers today.