Raising industry standards and the next generation of chimney sweeps.

HETAS approved chimney sweep, Emily Skeet, talks about raising industry standards and the next generation of chimney sweeps.

Emily Skeet 2The chimney sweep trade is under threat - the cause? Lack of public awareness, says female sweep Emily Skeet.

“There are a number of myths that needs to be dispelled about chimney sweeping. I think the first images to come into people’s minds are of small, soot-covered children, as seen in the film, ‘Mary Poppins’. Today, it’s a very different reality,” says Emily, 22, who set up her own sweeping business, Cinnabar Stoves Chimney Sweeping, three years ago.

Emily provides sweeping services to homes in and around Carmarthen in West Wales, carrying out up to six sweeps a day: “A normal sweep will take me about an hour and a half as I like to have a good chat with the client about their appliance. Contrary to what many people may think, I don’t make a mess. I use modern methods and tools such as a power-sweeping, CCTV and vacuums to ensure minimal disturbance for the homeowner. I’ve had a few cases where customers move all of their furniture out of the room, which really isn’t necessary!”

Emily has been working in the industry since she was 14 when she would shadow her father, a HETAS registered installer. She loves that her job allows her to meet so many different people: “I really thrive off doing a good job for my clients, so it does really upset me when I visit a customer’s home and have to deal with poor installations. Most problems arise with clients who haven’t had their appliance installed by a HETAS-approved professional, which I often check via the helpline.”

The technical helpline is available to all HETAS registered businesses and is operated by HETAS professionals. It provides registrants with up-to-date technical advice throughout the working week (Monday to Thursday 9am-5pm and Friday 9am-4.30pm).Raising Industry Standards

“When the work hasn’t been undertaken by a HETAS registered installer, I often find even if the installation is OK, the customers won’t have been given  any aftercare advice, so they’ll have no idea what fuel they should be using, how often they need to have their chimney swept, or, at worst, they won’t have a carbon monoxide alarm fitted. These things create a real hazard.”

Having undertaken the HETAS approval scheme, Emily has gone through training which is in line with Building Regulations so that she can offer sound advice to her clients. “The course was invaluable. Now, when I find something that’s not quite right with a chimney I have the knowledge and collateral to be able to explain the problem fully to the customer.”

Emily utilises her father’s database to ensure that consumers are receiving a consistent message, from purchase to installation and maintenance: “Whether it’s a wood-burning stove or a biomass boiler, retailers, installers and sweeps need to be highlighting the importance of using HETAS approved services to improve quality in the industry. I’ll always recommend HETAS approved fuel to ensure the appliance runs as cleanly and efficiently as possible,” she adds.

Emily is passionate about getting more people interested in the chimney sweep trade, especially females. “Women are largely unrepresented in this industry, but unfortunately I think it is suffering across the board. Alarmingly, there are a lot of sweeps who just don’t have the qualifications required nowadays to ensure the job is done well and safely. I think it’s easy to underestimate chimney sweeping, but it’s a very important job that requires a lot of training and investment in equipment.

“Unfortunately, I’ve met other female sweeps who were discouraged from pursuing this career path at school. Luckily, they were determined to continue working in the industry, but it shows there is work to be done here to encourage more females into the industry.  Certainly I've found chimney sweeping to be a very satisfying and enjoyable career.”

 

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