Burning issue

Heating and plumbing installers need to ensure their own wellbeing as well as that of their customers when carrying out heating and plumbing tasks, so it’s vital to put safety first.

“Many, if not most, property owners do not prepare for works ahead of the installer’s arrival, so it’s often down to the installer to review, ascertain and put a plan together to create a safe working environment for all parties, particularly where hot works may be undertaken,” says Adrian-Paul Liddell MCIPHE, managing director of Busy Energy.

Follow procedures

Engineers should always carry out a Site Specific Risk Assessment and Method Statement (SSRAMS) ahead of any works, which can then be presented to the customer post quote.

“To ensure all is clear and understood, toolbox team talks ahead of works should be held up to two weeks before,” says Liddell. “If works are reactive and emergency based, we would recommend that thought is given to mechanical heat-free works above soldering first.

“Where emergency works are to be undertaken, it is always advisable to understand and put in place a plan to mitigate any risk from burning or scalding, as well as fire from hot works. Appropriate fire safety equipment should always be to hand and marked clearly where soldering or hot works are to take place, this includes inspected and certified fire extinguishers and items such as heat proof mats, gloves, eye protectors and, without question, a full first aid kit. We would also advise knowing and noting where the nearest medical facility is located.”

Think ahead

It pays to think of the worst case scenario when carrying out work on heating and hot water systems, and to assume that any safety devices are not working correctly until proven otherwise.

“Be diligent,” says Liddell. “Always keep a works log of what has been tested and how it operated, which is all part of mandatory service works on such systems.”

Hot water systems pose a serious risk to heating and plumbing engineers and if faulty can produce temperatures in excess of 100°C, particularly unvented and some older solid fuel systems, and can be very dangerous if not dealt with appropriately.

“Solar Thermal Systems can also be very dangerous as super high temperatures can be experienced in them, whilst older direct immersion only heated cylinders can also deliver water at scalding temperatures too, if faulty,” says Liddell. “The safety valves, temperature regulating valves, and expansion relief technology fitted to such systems are there for a very good reason on more modern systems and as such care and due diligence must always be applied when dealing with any system that could present a possibility of risk.”

Be prepared

Taking appropriate precautions when carrying out high-risk jobs must include correct PPE and first aid kit, with contents that are in date.

When working with heat, when mechanical or heat free is not possible, it’s vital that engineers operate in a well-ventilated area, with the correct PPE, such as suitable breathing apparatus and protection for eyes, hands and any exposed body areas.

“If you are in an environment where a hot works permit is required, make sure you have obtained one and, where possible, place a ‘person at work’ sign around the areas you are operating to assist in alerting the public or your clients to what is happening,” advises Liddell. “Make sure that a suitable fire extinguisher is available close to hand and heat proof mats are utilised when working close to other surfaces, which may be subject to higher temperature heat transfer.

“Training is vital and safety training is critical for construction work. It’s good practice to ensure that employers and employees are familiar with the requirements for the area they operate in to perform their role safely, compliantly and competently.”

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