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FLUES CONCEALED IN VOIDS – GAS SAFETY CONCERN


Visit our website dedicated to solving this matter at: www.inspection-hatches.co.uk

This fact sheet has important advice for consumers who have flues which run in ceiling spaces and other voids.

Changes to Gas Boiler Safety Checks
Where existing flue ventilation systems are concealed within a void and cannot be visually inspected, steps will have to be taken to fit inspection hatches by 31st December 2012. Where visual inspection after that date is impossible Gas Safe registered engineers will declare that the system is unsafe to use.

From the mid-1990s fan assisted flues became available and many new-build and refurbished properties were fitted with boilers on internal walls in order to make better use of the available space. Often these flues travelled significantly greater distances than was previously the case to terminate at an external wall, necessitating in some cases a number of joints in the flue run.

The latest HSE Safety Notice (which came into force on 1st January 2011) is an update of the October 2008 notice which was issued to raise awareness of the potential dangers from certain types of flues connected to gas central heating installations that may not have been installed properly, or may have fallen into disrepair (so that the integrity of the flue was affected allowing carbon monoxide to escape into living space).

Where boilers are located away from external walls, flues are more likely to run through ceiling (or wall) voids. In such cases when the gas appliance is serviced or maintained it can be difficult, or impossible, to determine whether the flue has been installed correctly or whether it is still in good condition.

Where a flue fault exists in combination with a boiler which is not operating correctly, deadly levels of carbon monoxide can build up and be released back into the accommodation. According to HSE statistics around 20 people die each year from carbon monoxide poisoning caused by gas appliances and flues that have not been properly installed, maintained or that are poorly ventilated. Others suffer serious damage to their health. Carbon monoxide is colourless, odourless, tasteless and highly poisonous.

Action Required
The revised technical guidance requires inspection hatches to be fitted in properties where the flue is concealed within voids and cannot be inspected. The homeowner (or landlord) has until 31st December 2012 to arrange for inspection hatches to be installed. Any gas engineer working on affected systems after 1st January 2013 will advise the homeowner that the system is "at risk" and, with the owner's permission will turn off the gas supply to the boiler so it cannot be used.
In the interim period, where no inspection hatches are fitted, the registered gas engineers will carry out a simple risk assessment which should ensure that the risk from exposure to carbon monoxide is managed in the short-term.

The Risk Assessment Includes:
looking for signs of leakage along the flue route; and

Carrying out a flue combustion analysis check (and obtaining a satisfactory result); and

Checking for the presence of suitable audible carbon monoxide alarms (and installing such alarms where they are not already fitted).

As long as this boiler passes the series of safety checks and the risk assessment does not identify any concerns about its safety, it can be left on.

Suitable inspection hatches will however need to be fitted to the ceiling (or wall, as appropriate) by end 31st December 2012. Wherever possible it is recommended that inspection hatches are fitted before this date.

Once inspection hatches have been fitted, the gas engineer will be able to make sure that the flue is safe and was installed in line with the relevant standards and manufacturers instructions.

Source: Health and Safety Executive


Jargon Buster
Flue system: the pipe (or pipes) that take fumes away from the gas appliance and also provides fresh air for the gas to burn correctly.

Void: a space above the ceiling or behind a wall where the flue is located.

Room-sealed fanned draught appliance: is one which is sealed from the room in which it is located. The flue

System takes fumes away from the appliance and also provides fresh air for the gas to burn correctly.