A legally required annual servicing of tens of thousands of gas boilers across Northern Ireland should be temporarily put on hold to stem the spread of coronavirus, an 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.
He is confident of their safety and feels it is a necessary step to protect 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 said.
"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 said his company and others have maintained a 100% compliance level across social housing clients in Northern Ireland over the last year.
However, minimising the contact between staff and tenants is crucial at present, while emergency and key maintenance work will continue as normal. He wrote to Economy Minister Diane Dodds to request suspension of the work, but in a reply this week the minister said she 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," he said.
Mr McGreevy said he and the wider industry is "confident" that the boilers are safe. He added: "All housing association buildings also have carbon monoxide detectors. They are also highly intelligent boilers - we are confident they are safe."