The Industrial Gas Operations Accreditation Scheme (I-GAS) qualification was devised by the Combustion Equipment Association (CEA) with industry and launched in March 2017 to fill a yawning gap identified in guidance to Regulation 3 of the ‘Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998. This says: “Gas work for those working at premises that fall outside the scope of the regulations should only be undertaken by a person who has successfully completed an appropriate full training course followed by assessment of competence.”
Many engineers working with industrial gas-fired equipment have acquired their competence – often in specialised equipment – through on-the-job training, historical knowledge, or simply by experience. However, until now, there has been no formal way of demonstrating this competence.
I-GAS is, says the CEA, the only formal training and accreditation scheme currently available that is specifically designed for maintenance staff and technicians working with gas in industrial premises. Nick Evans, a director at Blue Flame Associates, explains: “The CEA course has been determined through consultation with stakeholders, training organisations [and others], and they have come up with a minimum [nationally available] standard…so it offers transferability throughout the industry.”
Training in each level is carried out by CEA-approved trainers (see box, right) who offer courses in their own establishments. The Level 2 and 3 courses are over five days, which includes three days’ training and two days of a formal third-party assessment process.
Successful candidates receive a certificate in either industrial gas maintenance (Level 2) or industrial gas technician (Level 3), along with an individual identity card valid for five years. After this period, the certificate and ID card require renewal, which includes a reassessment of the candidate.
David Kilpatrick (pictured), director of the CEA, admits that I-GAS got off to a slow start: “The first pilot course didn’t achieve what we had hoped it would, and we couldn’t deliver the amount of content required in one five-day course. Therefore, we had to go back to the drawing board and rethink the programme.”
However, he says, the sluggish start was helpful in allowing I-GAS training providers and the CEA to ensure the correct equipment was in place, fine-tune the programmes, and create four of the five levels which it agreed was the right balance.
And Kilpatrick is happy with progress of the scheme so far: “Now that I-GAS is 24 months old, it has started to gain traction in large and small UK companies such as Palm Paper, Ford, and Toyota, to name but a few, with 200 candidates already having started the I-GAS journey.”
Word is also spreading through magazines and other communications, and Kilpatrick says the CEA is taking enquiries from all over the UK. “Through the various conferences that CEA runs… managers are becoming much more aware that they have to be able to prove competence for any of their staff working not only on gas, but many other things too, including proving that they have been trained and assessed for competence.
“This also applies to any contractors employed to do work on their sites... These contractors will need to provide proof of competence on industrial applications, as more and more companies ask for it.”
Kiwa Training is one of the companies involved in preparing people for the I-GAS qualification. The company’s head of training, Andrew Mathews, says: “The scheme is still new and not really understood by wider industry, but it is increasingly becoming an industry brand for industrial gas training; it’s the only formal training and accreditation scheme currently available that is specifically designed for maintenance staff and technicians working with gas in industrial premises.” The nearest course available to Gas Safe registered operatives is the ACS non-domestic gas training course, he adds: “However, although satisfactory for commercial or small industrial work, this does not consider very large gas components, industrial-sized gas ovens, steam boiler burners, or CHP using natural gas at pressures required in industry.”
Those successfully completing the I-GAS training and assessments have, he claims, enjoyed the training and found it advantageous when working within the gas industry. So far, four levels have been developed; a fifth is due to be launched later.
BOX OUT 1: The I-GAS scheme in a nutshell
I-GAS started when CEA member companies were unable to prove the competence of their own staff who might have to break into a gas pipelines (ways), or carry out gas equipment maintenance. The challenge was discussed both with the Health and Safety Executive and Institution of Gas Engineers and Managers to develop an understanding of the issues, and decide how best to plug the gap.
I-GAS was deemed to be the answer. It is designed to take operatives who either may be relatively new to the gas industry or already experienced gas operatives through four levels of industrial gas qualifications.
Level 1 is an entry-level knowledge check to allow access to Levels 2 and 3 for candidates with little gas work experience. It doesn’t permit a successful candidate to carry out work on gas systems. However, it does help new entrants familiarise candidates with gas industry standards, legislation and procedures.
Level 2, ‘industrial gas maintenance’, applies to operators and maintainers who will work with gas pipework systems, equipment in industrial premises and gas-fired electricity generating plants. Where they may be required to conduct safe procedures for gas work, break into gas ways, repair or replace gas line components, employ strength and tightness testing, purge a system, and relight end-of-line equipment.
Level 3 ‘industrial gas technicians’ is designed for the same people when they may be required to break in to the gas system for specified maintenance and repair activities. It includes understanding combustion principles and equipment, combustion analysis and emissions, and setting regulators.
Level 4 will be launched later this year. It is for candidates who have completed Level 3 or equivalent and are designing pipework, strength testing, pipeline replacement and modifications to installations and gas system commissioning. It will involve two separate weeks of residential training split over a 12-month period, with various assignments after each training session.
Level 5 is planned for future development.
BOX OUT 2: Fees & Logistics
Level 1: The CEA provides textbooks, examination, marking, and a certificate of successful completion (allowing the candidate to progress to higher levels. £200 (+VAT and P&P).
Level 2: The training provider sets its own fees, currently about £400-£650 for three days of training, and £400 to £550 for the two-day assessment.In addition, CEA charges an administration fee of £150 (+VAT), £200 for those who have progressed outside of Level 1.
Level 3: Again, the training provider will set its own fees, which are about the same as Level 2. The CEA administration fee is also the same.
Training providers are responsible for:
● Receiving and vetting I-GAS applications and fees
● Assessing the suitability of candidates’ ‘evidence packs’ in advance of training
● Providing candidates with relevant training material and notes.
● Delivering training to meet the syllabus content
● Invigilating written examinations and practical assessments
CEA-approved I-GAS training providers include:
● Blue Flame Associates – Nick Evans – 01782 576810
● Cochran Boilers – David Branch – 01461 306000 / 07736 799833
● Kiwa Training – Andy Mathews – 01242 508790
● Saacke Combustion Services – Phil Kemp – 02392 333900
● SGAS – Steve Johnston – 07590 635722