A shortage of qualified service personnel could make it extremely difficult to fulfil the gas safety inspection needs of consumers throughout Victoria, even if testing was to be made mandatory by the government. Concern over the hazards associated with the use of gas heaters has risen to the fore, following the revelation that as many as 12,000 of the devices installed in Victoria during the first decade of the new century could be leaking hazardous levels of carbon monoxide.

Cannon Appliances recently issued a warning that Cannon Fitzory or Canterbury Inbuilt Heaters installed between March 20, 2001 and October 8, 2009 could pose a hazard to home occupants under certain conditions. The news prompted 3AW radio host Neil Mitchell to announce that Cannon Appliances should be “screaming it from the rooftops” due to the potentially fatal nature of exposure to carbon monoxide. One anonymous industry veteran who spoke to Sourceable said that the key to ensuring the safety of such systems irrespective of their make, come down to correct installation and regular servicing.

“The main thing is installing these systems correctly. You’ve got to install them correctly and test them to make sure that there aren’t any issues,” he said. “The consumer should also be having these systems tested every two years anyway.” According to the source, while Energy Safe Victoria is doing an outstanding job of apprising consumers of the dangers and servicing requirements of gas appliances, their efforts will only be limited unless inspections are made mandatory. “I think Energy Safe Victoria, if you look at the ads that they’re running on television, are actually doing a good job,” he said. “They’re telling everybody that that’s what you have to do – it’s not the

law here that you have to do it. It’s just suggested in law that you get your gas appliances serviced.
At least they’re out there running advertising campaigns – how much more can they do?” Despite the efforts of Energy Safe Victoria, who are investing in raising public awareness of the dangers of gas appliances and the need for regular servicing. This is still not a complete safeguard against mishap, given the lack of mandatory requirements and the negligent attitudes of many owners. “You know what Australia’s like – everyone has the attitude that ‘she’ll be right.’ You ask every hundred people if they get their gas appliances regularly serviced, and most of them will tell you that they don’t.”

“They couldn’t care less because they don’t think anything’s ever going to happen to them. They prefer to spend their money on other things aside from gas safety.” Given the potential danger to human safety posed by malfunctioning gas appliances, Victoria as well as other parts of Australia would be wise to look at the requirements of other countries around the world – such as the UK, where regular inspections are mandated by law. Whilst there is some concern if there are enough qualified gas fitters to cope with such demand, Master Plumbers believes that market forces will rapidly move to meet this demand. Governments may be deterred from making testing of gas appliances mandatory, after the pink batts debacle, due to the potential fallout of shoddy inspections. Master Plumbers believes that if there is appropriate industry consultation, and the correct processes are put in place, there should be no concern on this matter.