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The Last Word - Original | Organisation of Professional Gas Operatives
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The Last Word - Original locked

ACS - Time for Change

 
There is a need for some positive changes in the industry. As experienced Gas Engineers we feel we have had little influence over the direction the industry has taken over the years. Only since Gas Safe Register have come along has consultation come to the fore.

We realise that the ACS system ‘works’ in that it processes tens of thousands of installers every year. But 'what works' is not always good enough and we feel it is time to ask...who does it work for? Whose interests does it serve, and has it helped improve standards and safety?

In some cases the scheme, in its present form, is counterproductive, because those who have skills and experience in a particular area are now held to be working illegally, for not having done the right ticket at their last assessment, whereas many of those deemed to be competent have little or no experience.

We chose to do the tickets that the levels of work justify, which means that even installers with years of experience in a particular area have to turn down work that they haven’t got the ticket for, only to find out later that the job was done by an ‘illegal’. Now a system that disadvantages those who play by the rules and rewards those who are willing to break them is wrong and leads to an increasing amount of poor workmanship and bad practice. So a new way needs to be found. We believe that overhauling the system for the sake of change would only cause more costs, confusion and lose the goodwill of installers. Without the goodwill of installers the system cannot be effective. The goodwill relies on genuine and meaningful consultation with those on the tools.

As a first step, we would argue for a much simplified system, whereby the number of different work areas is reduced to about 10, instead of 80+ ACS tickets that are there at the moment. Instead of slicing the work areas into different appliances it should be sliced the other way, so that simple jobs like fitting a brand new system in a straight forward new build requires a minimum standards exam and the more complicated jobs, like safety assessment on ageing rare appliances, require a higher standard.
We want to see different qualification levels in the gas industry, so that those who have completed a 6 week course can only do a limited scope of work, and as experience and further training is gained that a higher level qualification can be achieved that provides the scope to do more advanced work.

We feel that this should be part of a system of continuous professional development, based on experience and training. Qualified experienced professionals should not have to reprove their competence every five years. As part of this professional development annual updates would work better than the existing system and keep everyone up to date with changes in standards, procedures, etc. It would mean that we could be provided just with the material that has changed over the last year, instead of having to buy a complete set of documentation every five years. The internet would provide a good way to distribute updates for a minimum cost. Annual updates would also keep the colleges in business, providing update days and refresher courses, and spread the financial costs that we have to bear.

Reform of the ACS system is just one of many launch policies of the newly formed Organisation of Professional Gas Operatives, OPGO. This article is made up from the edited contributions of many of our members. We have been set up with the aim of being a democratic and representative, non-profit, ‘grass roots’ organisation, run by installers for installers, aimed mainly at sole traders and small business, who we feel have for too long been under represented. The suspicion is we are seen as a cash cow for training centres, merchants, manufacturers, registration bodies, competent persons' schemes, awarding bodies, etc. Only by getting involved in organisations like OPGO, will we be able to get the recognition and power in the industry that our numbers deserve.

Our website includes a forum where members can socialise, air their views, pick the brains of others, share and develop technical and business information, (or just have a good moan). We already have representation on the Gas Industry Liaison Group (GILG) to further the interests of our members. We are open to all those on the Gas Safe Register, and those with close links to the industry who share our aims.

Thanks for reading, and thanks to Registered Gas Engineer for publishing. If you want to find out more about OPGO, and learn how to join us for a free trial please visit us at www.opgo.co.uk.(external link)


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