Gas Safety Regulations in the UK

Advice About Gas Safety Regulations in the UK

Because the dangers of CO2 poisoning were not appreciated as much as they are now, most properties, mainly flats and apartments, were built with boiler flues that could not be inspected. This was principally because flues were built behind walls or ceilings. And as it is the flue that takes away the harmful gases the law has been tightened to try and prevent the deaths of around 20 people each year from CO2 poisoning. If you boiler is situated directly onto an outside wall it is unlikely that this will be a problem.

With the introduction of new gas safety regulations it is now compulsory for all gas engineers to be able to see and inspect boiler flues. Should that not be possible then the engineer will, as part of his maintenance inspection, turn the boiler off and advise you not to use it until an inspection hatch is fitted. Although there may have been carbon monoxide alarms fitted, these will not be sufficient to compensate for not having the work done. It’s good to make sure that any property has an annual service but all rented properties already need to have an annual inspection carried out, so if you are a tenant and a flue inspection has not been done yet it would be worth notifying your agent or landlord of the need to have this done; especially as you don’t want to find yourself without heating for several weeks until the problem is rectified.

The logo of the gas safe register.

The logo of the gas safe register.

Although you are not legally required to carry out this work, it is important to remember that you could be criminally liable if there was a death due to negligence on your part. To emphasise your liability an engineer will ask you to sign paperwork to confirm you accept responsibility for any defects identified in the system which could result in a serious incident.

If you experience any of the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning you should carry out the following:

  • Immediately get fresh air and open as many doors and windows as possible
  • Turn off any gas appliances and leave the property
  • See your doctor or go to the hospital straight away, and let them know that you may have carbon monoxide poisoning. They will check by doing a blood and breath test
  • If there is immediate danger then dial 0800 111 999 which is the Gas Emergency Helpline
  • Have the gas appliances inspected by a Gas Safe registered engineer

Any gas engineer carrying out gas work in the United Kingdom, the Isle of Man or Guernsey must be on the Gas Safe register. The register replaced CORGI registration in 2009.

A Carbon Monoxide alarm can save lives.

A Carbon Monoxide alarm can save lives.

UK Gas Safety Regulations

Both natural piped and liquefied petroleum gas are safe in homes when used carefully. Gas leaks can be deadly, accumulations of leaked gas if ignited can cause fatal explosions.

Leaking flue pipes can cause carbon monoxide poisoning. It’s a silent, odourless killer.

These accidents are most likely during renovations, when normally safe systems may be compromised.

What to Do In an Emergency

Carbon Monoxide is the product of the incomplete burning of natural and liquid petroleum gas.

Often referred to as ‘the silent killer’ because it is odourless and creeps up on us silently.

Gas leakage is not something to treat lightly, especially as it could harm the person trying to fix it. The single most important thing is to avoid causing a spark or flame – even turning on a light switch could make the gas explode.

Immediate Action for both Gas and Carbon monoxide leaks

  • Open doors and windows to dilute the gas with fresh air
  • Turn off any appliance you suspect may be leaking
  • Turn off the main supply to your home
  • Call the national gas emergency number 0800 111 999
  • Arrange an emergency inspection by a gas safe registered engineer

Emergency First Aid

Carbon monoxide poisoning is deceptive, because it manifests itself in our bodies with ‘flu-type symptoms. We may come down suddenly with a headache, nausea, dizziness and general lethargy (or any combination of these) as our body fights the poison. In more severe cases, victims may suffer breathlessness, and even lose consciousness and collapse.

People suffering from suspected carbon monoxide poisoning must immediately go outside into the fresh air. If their symptoms quickly lift, this is confirmation of the cause, and they should seek medical attention right away. Occurrences are highest in winter months when the central heating’s running. This is also a time when ‘flu is prevalent. Don’t take a chance if you suspect it’s the gas. Call in a gas safety engineer promptly

What to Do During Renovations

Gas supply piping and appliances should provide years of trouble-free service if we treat them correctly, and arrange inspections by a gas safe engineer regularly. It’s essential to maintain control during home improvements and renovations, especially if there are several contractors present.

This is because gas piping runs in attics, through walls, and under floors. Usually, this will be trouble-free if left alone. However, a sudden shock could cause a pipe to fracture or a joint to fail. When that happens, you could find yourself in the emergency situation described earlier.

To avoid this happening it’s essential to do the following:

  • Understand how the work impacts on the fabric of your home
  • Try to determine what may possibly go wrong
  • Ask a gas safe inspector to trace your gas piping reticulation, and comment on the impact the building work may have
  • Ask the inspector to isolate all the gas lines in your home that might be at risk
  • Keep an eye on what’s going on when contractors are present
  • Have a registered person reinstate the supply when the work is finished

This could result in a total or partial loss of gas supply during a home improvement project or renovation project. You’ll have to accept this. It’s far better to be safe than sorry. You could rent or buy inexpensive electric appliances to tide you over.

It can be impossible to keep an eye on all these different things while you’re working, raising a family or out shopping. It’s not a good idea to ask one contractor to keep an eye on all the others, because they normally only know a single trade. Using a project manager will help to assure all the potential risks are flagged prior to any work starting.

It’s a landlords duty to ensure equipment is kept working.

It’s a landlords duty to ensure equipment is kept working.

Duties of a Landlord

If you’ve taken the precautions we’ve suggested, then you shouldn’t be liable for a gas problem caused by a contractor doing building alterations. However if you’re renting out space in your home (even to a family member), then you are their landlord, and that changes the rules for responsibility.

You could be criminally responsible if you fail to:

  • Maintain gas pipework, appliances and flues in safe condition
  • Ensure an annual safety check
  • Maintain a record to prove you did

You also need to advise your tenants about gas safety generally. This implies safety training before you embark on renovation projects and home improvements.

Senior Citizens

If you’re getting on in years, you might qualify for a free annual gas safety check. The company who sends your gas bills will comment on this if you request this. They may ask you to confirm that:

  • You are elderly, disabled or chronically sick (and live alone, or with others in a similar situation)
  • You do not have a landlord who should arrange the gas check
  • You have not had a gas safety check inspection in the past twelve months.

If you are entitled to this benefit, you may also qualify for a winter fuel allowance, and financial assistance with upgrading your heating system. It doesn’t do any harm to ask. You’ve done your bit. Now it’s time to get something back.

Gas Appliance Safety

Only a gas safe registered engineer can fit and register a new gas appliance

A gas appliance is anything connected to a gas line that creates heat or light. There are no exceptions. Any gas appliance is capable of leaking, with the resultant risk of carbon monoxide poisoning or explosion. The law requires that you take precautions when disconnecting or installing any gas appliance. If you don’t, you could endanger yourself, the other occupants of your home, and even your immediate neighbours.

UK law requires that you tell your local authority when you install a heat-producing gas appliance (such as a boiler, fire or any device that requires a flue. This includes some Ovens) Moreover, only a gas safe registered engineer can be used to fit these appliances. Similarly- a qualified person may carry out checks and tests afterwards. The same applies when you’re disconnecting an appliance during home alteration and redecoration projects (or replacing it with another one).

It is your duty to tell your local authority that you are changing your gas installation. If you don’t do so, then it’s possible that neither your home nor your possessions may have insurance cover against a gas fire or gas explosion. These rules are not in place for the sake of it. They are there to protect both you and those near and dear to you.

After you tell your local authority that you’re changing your gas appliance installation, they have a duty to check that the work is in terms of building regulations. They also have a duty to request a gas safe engineer inspects the installation. When you think about it, this makes a lot of sense.

Building Regulations

The Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations of 1988 are the umbrella document that controls everything that we’ve discussed. If you’re contemplating home improvements and renovations, it’s a good idea to know a bit about them. You shouldn’t assume builder knows them well:

Authorised Persons – Only persons authorised under the Health and Safety Act may work on any part of a gas installation. This applies equally to a worker, a supervisor, an employer, and a homeowner. They only exceptions are replacement of hoses and regulators connected to refillable gas cylinders or portable heating appliances.

General Safety – Any person working on a gas fitting may not leave it unattended unless the installation is completely safe. They may not allow gas to escape, and are forbidden to smoke at any time.

Alteration to Premises – Nobody may alter a home or other premises where a gas installation is present, if this could affect gas safety in any way. This includes obstructing flues or ventilation generally. Think twice, if an installer leaves your kitchen window boarded-up over the weekend.

Emergency Shut-Off – All gas shut-off points must be readily accessible at all times no matter the nature of the work. If this is not possible, have the gas supply temporarily disconnected, or move the gas main isolation valve somewhere else.

Installation Pipework – All parts of a gas reticulation system must be located safely at all times. If installed in masonry, they must be hardened to protect them from structural failure. A problem may arise when a builder unknowingly exceeds the design specification. They may not even know the pipe is there.

Safety Marks – The law requires that all accessible gas pipes be clearly marked so they cannot be confused with anything else. Thereafter, the owner has a responsibility for ensuring they are not recycled for another purpose.

Leak Testing – A gas safe registered engineer must leak-test a gas installation immediately following alterations and renovations, if there is the slightest possibility of any damage.
Important Tips

Always take heeds of Gas warnings

Always take heeds of Gas warnings

The laws discussed, and the advice given are the interests of everybody living in the UK where a gas installation is present. They are there to help us remain safe. Ignoring them or trying to work around them is foolish, because that is literally playing with health and life.

Under normal circumstances, we take gas for granted as we go about our lives, with just an annual gas safety inspection to remind us of the things we take for granted. This quiet confidence comes under threat when we get the builders in. They’re in a hurry to get finished. We want them gone, and our homes back sooner than the job allows. When this happens, carefully-constructed safety measures can fail.

That’s why it’s so important to work closely with a Gas safe registered engineer and to take all measures necessary to avoid a gas-related problem. It’s just not worth skirting around the issues and taking short cuts. You must be gas safe in your home at all times, even when the builders are in.

Image credits: Kevin May, Steve Snodgrass and secretlondon 123