As the UK’s largest energy and home services company, British Gas knows of this problem only too well. Not only is it costly to the organisation but tampered gas pipes and bypassed meters endanger lives. Crude methods to illegally obtain supplies can lead to fatal electric shocks and gas explosions. After a terraced house in Sheffield was destroyed in a gas explosion in 2013, investigators found that of 20 houses in the same street, five were stealing gas and two were stealing electricity.
Ofgem officials say the industry detects up to 25,000 cases of electricity theft each year. Andrew Wright, Ofgem chief executive, said: “Ofgem wants to make sure that consumers are paying no more than they need to for their electricity, and lives are not put at risk. It’s critical that suppliers do all they can to clamp down on electricity theft.”
British Gas’ Field Engineers are at the forefront of inspection and detection in relation to their supplies. In some cases, British Gas have to first apply for a warrant to enter a premises in order to conduct a thorough inspection. Naturally, with the threat of prosecution and serious consequences should someone be found to be stealing, these inspections can rapidly escalate into an aggressive and hostile situation.
With the threat of danger on two fronts, lone working Engineers can find themselves in difficult and hazardous situations. Thankfully, they’re never truly alone as help and reassurance is just a button push away thanks to their MySOS personal safety devices.
The small keyfob-shaped device is already proven in use; An Engineer had to call on Skyguard after discovering a tampered meter and was subsequently threatened. One press of the SOS button on his device directly linked him to Skyguard’s 24/7 operated Incident Management Centre.
Via the device’s two-way communications, a live audio feed is transmitted and Controllers at the IMC can quickly develop a picture of what is happening and make a judgement on whether Police intervention was needed. In this case, it was.
Because Skyguard’s IMC is fully accredited to BS 8484:2016 and BS 5979, Controllers can call the local police control room quoting a Unique Reference Number. This action is far quicker than using the 999 emergency system and guarantees a faster police response… vital in any emergency.
As the MySOS is fitted with GPS location technology, Controllers are able to direct assistance to the exact location using a variety of mapping tools and co-ordinates.
The police arrived within minutes and because the alarm was raised discreetly, further escalation of aggression was avoided and the situation was calmed. If required, Skyguard can provide an audio record of verbal exchanges between its Engineers and members of the public, providing evidence of an incident which can be used in court.
British Gas have found that having Skyguard as a backup for their lone workers is an important tool in their bid to reduce energy theft as well as safely carry out all other tasks. “It’s an essential part of our daily PPE” explains Douglas Watt, Spokesperson for British Gas.
British Gas now equip over 3,400 of their Engineers with the MySOS device. This level of commitment towards staff safety demonstrates how Skyguard can help lone workers deal with difficult scenarios.