Brits warned about dangerous DIY home improvements during lockdown

A new survey from Gas Safe Register shows that over half of Brits (52%) are more likely to carry out home improvements during this period of social distancing, despite not having the experience or confidence to do the job correctly. Unsafe gas DIY has resulted in emergency engineer call outs during the social distancing period, according to Gas Safe Register. 

The survey of over 2000 British householders highlights: 

  • Almost 1 in 5 (15%) of those embarking on renovations plan to DIY on jobs that could have gas safety implications
  • Two-thirds (67%) of those planning to build an extension would use a YouTube tutorial for guidance
  • Around two-thirds of those installing a gas cooktop (75%), a gas fireplace (67%), gas oven (64%) or gas boiler (61%) would use YouTube or Google for guidance
  • Over a third (35%) of UK adults wouldn’t consider hiring a tradesperson during this current period of social distancing
  • Only two fifths (40%) would seek the help of a registered gas engineer during lockdown, even if faced with major warning signs of a gas-related emergency

Gas Safe Register is warning the public that work involving gas appliances is generally complex and should be left until it can be safely and legally done by a Gas Safe registered engineer. DIY gas work can be dangerous, potentially even fatal, and can lead to gas leaks, fires, explosions, or exposure to carbon monoxide.

Of those planning to install a gas boiler, more than one in five (21%) admit to not considering themselves experienced or confident in tackling the job. Likewise, more than a third (34%) of those intending to fit a new gas oven say they are unfamiliar or lacking in knowledge of the task.

Gas Safe Register’s research also shows a significant proportion of would-be DIYers are turning to YouTube and Google searches as their first port of call for guidance when attempting some of the more hazardous tasks, rather than seeking the help of qualified experts. These tasks include fitting a gas cooktop (75%), installing a gas fireplace (67%), fitting or fixing a gas oven (64%), and installing a gas boiler (61%). 

Bob Kerr, gas services director for the Gas Safe Register, says: “These new figures show a worrying number of people planning to take on gas work that could result in potentially deadly incidents. When it comes to some of the more complex DIY jobs – such as fitting, fixing or moving gas cookers, hobs, boilers or fires – it is vital to go to trade experts who have the right skills to carry out the work safely.

“Gas Safe Register is reminding the public that if you do find yourself in a gas emergency, it’s vital you seek the help of a registered expert. Gas engineers are listed as key workers and as such, are still conducting home visits, with the necessary precautions in place, during this period of social distancing and staying at home.”

Unintended consequences

While DIY-ing directly with gas appliances is the most obvious way to cause a gas emergency, there are other projects that can indirectly put people at risk. For example, building a conservatory or extension on a site that blocks or covers the flue is a common issue. If your flue becomes blocked, these gases will leak back into the home, leaving occupants at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Of those planning to work on building an extension to their property, more than a third (35%) would not consider themselves experienced, while just under a third (29%) would not consider themselves confident in tackling this task.

And it is not just appliance-based jobs Brits are looking up on YouTube, two-thirds (67%) of those planning to begin (or continue) work on an extension said they would use a video-based tutorial for guidance.

Tommy Robertson, a Gas Safe registered engineer from Surrey, says: “We know people are going to be doing DIY during lockdown. Since social distancing was enforced, I’ve already been out to visit a number people that have found themselves in a gas emergency from ‘simple’ jobs, like putting up shelving. All it takes is drilling a hole in the wrong place to end up in dangerous territory. If you’re in doubt, don’t do it. It’s important now that we stay home and stay safe – and don’t DIY with gas.”

Bob Kerr concludes: “If you spot the signs of a gas emergency, whether that’s noticing the warning signs of a faulty gas appliance or experiencing symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, please seek the help of a registered gas engineer. It’s always better to be gas safe than sorry.”


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