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Calls for suspension of gas boiler servicing to prevent spread of Covid-19 turned down

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Economy Minister Diane Dodds

Economy Minister Diane Dodds

Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

Economy Minister Diane Dodds

A legally required annual servicing of tens of thousands of gas boilers across Northern Ireland should be temporarily put on hold in a bid to stem the spread of coronavirus and protect both workers and tenants, one major engineering firm boss has said.

Connaire McGreevy of Warrenpoint’s CTS Projects, alongside a UK-wide industry campaign, is calling for a three month suspension of gas boiler servicing here, and is confident of their safety, and ensuring the protection of staff and households.

His firm looks after around 13,000 gas boilers across Northern Ireland, each year.

“(It’s about) protecting tenants and protecting my staff,” Mr McGreevy told the Belfast Telegraph. “There is a legal obligation on landlords to service a gas boiler every year.

“We are calling for a suspension of gas servicing as we try and flatten the curve.

“Give us a short extension of around three months, and then have a light touch in terms of the regulation, to allow a catch-up period, post-global pandemic.”

Mr McGreevy says his company and others have maintained a 100% compliance level across social housing clients in Northern Ireland, but that minimising the contact between staff and tenants is crucial at the moment, while emergency and key maintenance work will continue as normal.

He’s written to Economy Minister Diane Dodds to request the suspension of the work. But this week a reply from the Minister said it would not extend timescales.

“If one engineer catches the virus, that could impact many families in just a few days. This is an easy, low-hanging fruit for the Economy Minister to suspend gas servicing.”

Mr McGreevy said he and the wider industry is “confident” that the boilers are safe, with 100% compliance across its social housing customers in Northern Ireland over the last year.

“All housing association building also have carbon monoxide detectors. They are also highly intelligent boilers – we are confident they are safe.”

He said the call to temporarily suspend servicing would cost his business around £10,000 a month.

A spokesman for the Department for the Economy told the Belfast Telegraph: “The Minister is aware of the difficulties industry may experience regarding carrying out gas safety checks” but “while the Minister understands the concerns raised in relation to the continuance of annual safety checks, the purpose of a gas safety check is to make sure gas appliances are safe for continued use… this is even more important now that many people are working from home given the current circumstance”.

The Department says the HSENI guidance on the issue takes “account of the current situation and asks all concerned to do what is reasonably practical in these circumstances”.