Part 6: Gas certificates and gas audits

Inquiry into the Plumbers, Gasfitters, and Drainlayers Board: Follow-up report.

In 2010, we reported some problems with the systems and controls over the issue of gas certificates, and the Board's gas audit work, in the period between 1992 and 2009. Since 1993, the Board had sold gas certificates to registered and licensed craftsman gasfitters (now termed "certifying") gasfitters. The certificates were to ensure that there was a record that established accountability for the gas work. The Board checked a small number of installations as part of its programme of auditing gasfitters.

We describe these arrangements in more detail in Part 6 of our 2010 report. In summary, we were critical of the Board's audits of gasfitters, including the checking of installations, because we saw no clear legal basis for them. We also found evidence that the overall certification system was ineffective.

Summary of progress

The Board had made some changes by the time we published our 2010 report. It had ended the previous programme of two-yearly audits of gasfitters that we queried. It now has clear legal capacity to impose competency requirements on the trades it regulates, including gasfitters. The Board is consulting with the industry on how it will check those requirements.

In 2010, our work and other events raised concerns about the certification system. Consequently, the Government began a review of the overall system and the relevant regulations later in 2010. The regulations were amended in 2012 and new arrangements came into force during 2013. The changes mean the regulatory landscape has changed.

The Board no longer has any role in issuing, receiving, or storing gas certificates. Instead, gasfitters keep their own copies of certificates and record high-risk gasfitting that they have done on a database operated by Energy Safety. Energy Safety is part of the new Crown entity, Worksafe New Zealand, and now oversees the gas certification system.

In 2010, we made two recommendations about gas certificates and gas audits. Figure 6 summarises the progress against these recommendations, with further detailed findings in paragraphs 6.7-6.16.

Figure 6
The Board's progress in addressing recommendations 9 and 10

We recommended that the Plumbers, Gasfitters, and Drainlayers Board:Progress by the end of 2013Relevant paragraphs in this report
9 … work with the Ministry of Economic Development and the Department of Building and Housing to consider what changes may be needed to enable the gas certification system to operate as an effective public safety protection. Our findings contributed to an industry-wide review of gas certification later in 2010. This led to reform to clarify legal roles and responsibilities around installations and certificates. The Board is operating within the new legislative framework. 6.6-6.16
10 … work closely with the Ministry of Economic Development and the Department of Building and Housing to develop a gas audit process that provides adequate assurance of the safety of self-certified gas installations.

Gas certificates for installations

The Board no longer has a role in gas certification. The Gas (Safety and Measurement) Amendment Regulations 2012 (the Gas Regulations) and the Electricity (Safety) Amendment Regulations 2012 came into force on 1 July 2013. These regulations shifted responsibility for the certification system from the Board to Energy Safety. Other changes included:

  • extending certification to cover all gas installation and prescribed electrical work;
  • requiring a safety certificate to be issued after connection;
  • providing for a publicly available database (transferred from the Board to Energy Safety) to record information on installation work classified as high risk;
  • maintaining and enhancing the consistency of the gas and electrical certification regimes; and
  • removing fees for gas and electrical certificates of compliance from 1 July 2013.

The Gas Regulations now provide that two certificates may be issued:

  • a Certificate of Compliance (CoC) certifies the compliance of work before connection; and
  • a Gas Safety Certificate (GSC) must be issued after commissioning and connecting any installation to the gas supply.

If the work is low risk, only the GSC is required. The GSC and CoC can be combined into one document. Gasfitters can combine the certificate with an invoice. These measures are to reduce the administration work that tradespeople must do, while still requiring a record of what work was done, by whom, and how it was tested. The CoC and GSC need to be provided to the person who contracted the work, and the certifying gasfitter is required to keep a copy. If the work is high risk, then the gasfitter is required to enter information about the CoC in Energy Safety's Gas High-Risk Database.

Ensuring that gasfitters are competent

The 1976 Act, and the 2006 Act that replaced it, gave the Board a statutory function to ensure that gasfitters were competent. In our 2010 report, we described how the Board had been carrying out two-yearly audits of gasfitters. The audit of competency included checking one or two installations. We saw no legal basis for the way in which the Board was conducting those audits.

By 2013, the Board was no longer carrying out gasfitter audits. It had temporarily suspended them on 1 April 2010 while it carried out a review. Now, the Board is operating within its role, while still working out the best way to check the competence of tradespeople in consultation with the industry. When we started our follow-up work, the Board was considering random competency reviews for gasfitters, plumbers, and drainlayers. However, the Board has decided not to continue with the random reviews after receiving feedback about the proposal.

The Board has decided to make participation in competency reviews a term and condition of licensing for all of the tradespeople it regulates. At the time of writing this report, the Board had agreed a policy to explain what the content of a competency review might be, and the circumstances by which one might be triggered. Because the Board had deferred a decision on implementing a competency review programme, this policy had not been published on the Board's website.

Auditing gas installations is one of a number of tools available to the Board to test competency, although it only has limited powers to enter buildings to check installations.

It was not within the scope of our follow-up work to review the effectiveness of the new arrangements for gas certification and safety. However, it appears to be simpler, because:

  • tradespeople self-certify without needing to buy special certificates;
  • Energy Safety and/or Work Safe have a role in checking high-risk gas installation safety in public places and places of employment; and
  • the Board has functions to ensure that tradespeople are competent.

We also noted that there was some risk of confusion about respective roles. We received comments during our follow-up work that indicated there was an expectation that the Board should be using the high-risk database to carry out some auditing of gas installations. We consider that there is no basis for this expectation, as the Act does not provide for the Board to routinely audit gas installations.

Recommendation 10 from our 2010 report said that the Board should work closely with the Ministry of Economic Development and the Department of Building and Housing to develop a gas audit process that provides adequate assurance of the safety of self-certified gas installations. MBIE is now the administering department for both the Act and the Gas Act 1992. We suggest that the Board continue to participate in industry discussions to ensure that the changes have not introduced unintended gaps in the safety regime.

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