Association of Registered Gas Installers
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The Association of Registered Gas Installers (ARGI) is a free web-based association. Registration (membership) is open to gas installers who are already registered with Gas Safe Register. ARGI was formed in 2004 to enable Registered Gas Installers (RGIs) to communicate effectively with each other, discuss matters affecting the industry and to make representations on their behalf, none of which was possible through CORGI (the register holder at that time)itself.
In recent years, there has been controversy over some aspects of the expanding role of CORGI. Some gas installers feel the organization is overbearing and an excessive financial burden, and that little is being done to stop unregistered installers operating. ARGI formed mainly as a consequence of this.
Registration (free web membership)[full membership is NOT free), with ARGI is increasing rapidly. Membership figures are not published. In total there are around 55,000 CORGI registered businesses in the UK employing nearly 110,000 gas operatives, so there remains scope for the expansion of ARGI.
During 2006 ARGI gained credibility and was invited by CORGI to join the CORGI Principal Representative Body (formerly the CORGI Council) and was represented during the latest Fundamental Review of Gas Safety conducted by the HSE. Many in the Industry have never had contact Argi until this time, though its name is put on lists of attendees by those wishing to be seen.
The committee members are elected. There are regular meetings held and full members may vote on the resolutions. There is a published mission statement, articles of association, statement of association policies, code of conduct. Argi aims to benefit the gas industry and the public.
ARGI and CORGI - the issues
The real danger of CO poisoning
Notwithstanding gas explosions, the greatest danger to the public from gas is Carbon Monoxide (CO), which is a toxic byproduct of the combustion process, in increased volume if combustion is incomplete. Most of the concern for gas safety focuses on safe CO dispersal through ventilation and flue systems, and prevention of incomplete combustion by regular service and maintenance of heat producing appliances, especially open-flued appliances. Modern gas appliances, especially those with fan assisted flues, are safer in this respect and the number of fatalities from CO poisoning has greatly declined.
Around 30 people a year die from CO poisoning, though not all of these involve gas-fired appliances. Compare this to over 3,000 killed each year by motor vehicles and 30,000 extra winter deaths each year due partly to lack of affordable heating. Lord Hunt, at the recent Parliamentary Review, raised the issue of "proportionality," and "not the only problem in the world."
However those who survive CO poisoning may experience brain damage, organ failure, loss of memory, blindness, induced epilepsy, peripheral palsy, personality change, and loss of mobility. They may also encounter skepticism from medical practitioners, who may believe their symptoms are psychosomatic. One victim had arm surgery to relieve a trapped nerve, but the neurosurgeon found none.
Dealing with unregistered installers
Registered installers must spend time and money on training and assessments to maintain their level of competence and CORGI registration. This adds substantially to overhead and charges to the public reflect that.
However there are many unregistered installers who do not carry these overheads, and who typically offer cheaper service. Consequently, ARGI views the RGIs increasing overheads as increasing the price differential and therefore a boost to the unregistered installer with whom they must compete.
One often proposed means of tackling this is to allow gas appliances sales only through RGIs. The identified RGI would be responsible for installation (or disposal/resale). However, the Government appears unwilling to pursue this strategy.
In a public poll, consumers felt the denial of right to purchase your own cooker or other appliance represented too much state interference. As it is not illegal, per se, to install your own appliance in your own home as long as you are competent to do so, the denial of right to buy the appliance is an infringement of personal liberty.