Providing remote gas safety advice and support services for the public and gas engineers throughout the Covid-19 pandemic
4 mins read
Maintaining services to deliver critical gas safety guidance to keep the public safe.
Capita has managed and delivered Gas Safe Register (GSR) on behalf of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) since 2009. The scheme is the official list of gas businesses who are registered to work safely and legally on domestic and commercial gas appliances such as boilers, cookers, fires and all other gas appliances. Capita is also responsible for promoting awareness of the register, and general gas safety awareness to consumers across the UK.
GSR provides a range of services aligned to gas safety advice and guidance; a field team of gas safety inspectors that check the competence of engineers and manage any concerns that are reported by the public; a customer services team that deals with enquiries from the public and gas engineers, from renewing registration details and dealing with the scheduling of inspections, to providing valuable support for vulnerable people with critical safety advice through a specific Gas Safety Advice line or service; a technical advice helpline, nationally staffed and manned by home-based, vastly experienced specialists providing guidance to gas engineers to ensure on-the-job gas safety.
As the Covid-19 risk began to emerge, the GSR customer services team continued to provide business as usual services to the public from the office, ensuring the correct levels of physical distancing were applied and in line with government advice.
Once the enforced lockdown was announced, customer services staff were relocated to work from their homes, implementing an email-first response mechanism for customer response which was initially manned by team leaders. New laptops were quickly deployed to all permanent customer service representatives to enable them to work effectively within 3 days of the office closure.
The home-based technical help line continued operating as usual, providing ongoing customer service in line with agreed service levels with our client. It was crucial that the service provided through the Gas Safety Advice line was maintained, so that the most vulnerable members of the public could still receive gas safety support and guidance. The support for this line was rapidly moved to the technical team, ensuring continuity of service but with an increased and additional level of support and expertise.
The main website remained a crucial channel for engineers to conduct their usual transactions, such as registration renewals, however where there was more complex demand these enquiries were routed to the technical team for resolution.
In addition, the team immediately created new web pages and news content related to Covid-19 topics, introducing a series of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for the public and engineers in response to the queries being raised. The team provided continuous and dynamic updates to these pages as further information on issues improved and became available. Similarly, all guidance scenarios from HSE were also added to the site for a fully comprehensive database.
A regular flow of customer communications were delivered; supplementing the existing email service to gas engineers with Covid-19 news updates and utilising information garnered from the FAQ; producing a digital issue of the highly respected Registered Engineer publication to incorporate relevant Covid-19 updates; the team also handled an increasing number of queries through social media channels to provide advice and guidance.
With social distancing measures in force, gas safety inspections had to be curtailed. It was agreed with HSE to assess each requirement on a case by case basis. The team introduced and rolled out a new technical theory assessment approach for engineers that was delivered by our inspectors from home. Whilst not replacing normal scheduled inspection activity, the assessments were well received by registered engineers and widely acknowledged as a valuable addition for education purposes and the adoption of best practice.
For the gas inspectors community, our team formulated a new approach to deliver knowledge sessions - six training courses on a variety of topics were arranged as online events for inspectors to join live or to access on-demand.
Impact and the future
As the situation has stabilised and the nation looks toward the phased lifting of restrictions, the team has worked on a plan which will see the resumption of safety inspection activity and the full customer service proposition over several weeks. The tenth Gas Safety Week will take place in September, with plans being adjusted to make the most of digital channels and the increased sense of community connection and responsibility in the UK.
Christine Bridge, Contract Manager, said: “The GSR team has worked collaboratively with HSE, and we appreciate their hard work to get the interim service operational, maintaining an essential gas safety service for consumers and engineers. Their responsiveness in publishing HSE’s guidance enabled us to get key messages out to the sector quickly, helping gas businesses maintain operations and support the nation’s gas safety. GSR have developed some interesting innovations to delivering inspections, and we look forward to working with the team to develop these further.”
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“I’m proud of the initiative and resilience that the GSR team has shown to keep our core services running without any downtime. Their timely responses and quick, regular communications have ensured that the public and engineers have received critical gas safety guidance when it has most been required during an extremely challenging period.”
Jonathan Samuels, MD at Gas Safety Register