Housing chief gives gas safety assurances after Kelso complaint

A DISABLED woman has relived the moment she watched in horror as a Scottish Borders Housing Association (SBHA) workman attempted to light with a naked flame the ring of a gas cooker he had just reconnected while her kitchen was “consumed” with the smell of gas.

“I couldn’t believe my eyes: I feared the whole house would blow up,” she said.

The SBHA has offered reassurances as an investigation nears a conclusion at the region’s largest social landlord after the tenant, who does not wish to be named for “fear of repercussions”, lodged a written complaint which is, she says, supported by two other SBHA workers who were in the house at the time.

The incident is alleged to have occurred in Kelso on January 17, when the house was being decorated after extensive refurbishment, including the fitting of a new kitchen the previous week.

The woman, who has a lung complaint and suffers from stress, said: “The kitchen was due to be finished on the Friday, but the clerk of works explained apologetically that SBHA had no registered gas engineer available to reconnect my cooker. I said I would be okay because I had been given access to the cooking facilities in an empty SBHA flat below.

“On Monday morning while the SBHA decorators were in, I went out, but when I returned at lunchtime there was a man who said he was a foreman attempting to light a ring on my cooker. I immediately noticed the smell of gas and was, naturally, very concerned.

“He said he had reconnected the cooker, but one of the rings was not working. I told him it had been working before and he continued trying to light it with a lighter.

“I was in a very stressed state because the room was contaminated, totally consumed, with the smell of gas.

“Eventually he gave up and disconnected the cooker. I have never seen him again. I called SBHA and they were quick in getting on to it so I could safely use my cooker again.”

The tenant said once she realised the worker was not a gas engineer, registered under the new Gas Safe Register, she told her decorators she intended writing a letter of complaint.

“I felt I had just had a narrow escape in my own home and was concerned that this could happen to some other elderly or vulnerable tenant, with possibly disastrous consequences. The two decorators were appalled and very supportive and said I could use their names in my letter of complaint.”

The tenant said she had received a letter from SBHA acknowledging her complaint on January 26, telling her she would receive a response within 10 days. She later had a visit from a man who took details of the incident.

Asked for a response this week, Julia Mulloy, SBHA’s new chief executive, said: “The tenant of the property raised concerns regarding an incident while reinstating her cooker after kitchen replacement works.

“We have visited the tenant to confirm the circumstances and expect to be in a position to provide a full response by the end of this week.

“I want to reassure the tenant concerned and all SBHA tenants that we take a very serious view of any issues regarding gas safety and any issues arising from this incident will be fully addressed.”

The Gas Safe Register, which replaced the gas engineer registration scheme formerly operated by CORGI, is the only scheme approved by the Health and Safety Executive. All gas engineers doing domestic and certain other gas work must be registered to lawfully carry out any work on gas fittings, including gas appliances.