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Dangerous appliances...

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Why gas engineers sometimes turn off appliances and attach warning labels...

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Gas Safe Register (previously CORGI) engineers seem to have developed a rather unfortunate reputation for 'condemning' and disconnecting older gas appliances, without clearly explaining why to the poor unfortunate gas user.

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This is inexcusable in my opinion. It's poor communication. There are clear and sensible reasons for turning off a dangerous appliance and the customer deserves a clear explanation, so here goes....

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Firstly, all faults on gas appliances are categorised. There are three defined levels of fault. The highest, most serious level of fault is "Immediately Dangerous" (ID). This means there is a danger to life or property right HERE and NOW if the appliance is used. This is usually a gas leak, or products of combustion (POC) are entering the property. 

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Gas leaks can cause explosions and POCs can cause death by carbon monoxide poisoning. It doesn't matter if the amounts of gas or POC are large or small, or even very very tiny. The law doesn't distinguish. If there is gas or POC where it shouldn't be, that's classified as ID. (There are other faults which can be ID, for example a gas ring burning a worktop or combustible material close by - the danger here is fire, obviously.) 

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The second level of fault is called "At Risk" (AR). This means something is wrong that is could cause a danger, but isn't actually doing so at the moment. For example, I had a boiler service on Friday and I noticed the boiler wasn't hanging quite upright on the wall. Closer inspection (with a torch and mirror) revealed that the wall fixing plate had come drift from the wall and the only thing holding this 70Kg boiler up was the flue outlet duct and the copper pipes connected to it. It was clearly ready to fall off the wall and fracture the gas pipe feeding it, even though it was running quite happily when I arrived. 

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I classified it as "At Risk", because it was not "Immediately Dangerous" (there were no gas or POCs leaking into the room while I inspected it), but the potential to become ID was obvious.

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The third level covers anything which does not comply with the gas regulations but is neither ID nor AR. This is called "Not to Current Standard" (NCS). 

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A good example could be when a gas pipe feeding an appliance is too small. The pressure drop along the pipe means the inlet pressure to the appliance is too low, so the appliance burns less gas than it is designed to burn (the flames are a bit smaller). This is clearly not ID, nor is it even AR, but it isn't right. Provided the appliance is running safely there is no risk, so it is simply classed as "Not to Current Standards" (NCS). 

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So what do gas installers do about these three classes of fault?

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For NCS faults, the installer simply has a responsibility to inform the gas user, then they can decide whether to do anything about it.

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For an "At Risk" or Immediately Dangerous" fault the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 require the Registered Gas Installer to correct the fault on the spot, OR impliment a procedure called the "Industry Unsafe Procedure" (IUP), and this is where the reputation mentioned at the beginning stems from.

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For an AR fault, unless the fault is going to be rectified immediately, the gas installer is required to:

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1) Verbally warn the user that the appliance is "At Risk" and should not be used, and that continued use will be the user's own responsibility. 

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2) attach a "DO NOT USE" warning label to the appliance.

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3) Issue a written warning notice to the user.

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4) Request the user's permission, and turn off the appliance/installation. If permission is refused, warn that it may be an offence to use an appliance that has the potential to become dangerous.

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For an "Immediately Dangerous" fault, unless the fault is going to be rectified immediately, the gas installer must:

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1) Explain that the installation is "Immediately Dangerous", and must be disconnected from the gas supply and that further use would contravene the gas safety regulations.

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2) Attach a "DO NOT USE" warning notice to the appliance/installation.

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3) Issue a written warning notice to the gas user.

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4) Request permission from the user, then disconnect the appliance/installation from the gas supply. If permmission is refused, then the gas installer must inform Transco.

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The crunch come when Transco visit and ask again. If permission is still refused, the gas supply will be disconnected from the property in the street. Reconnection will be quite expensive. Users have no choice under the gas regs when an ID situation exists. The fault HAS to be fixed or the gas WILL be disconnected, one way or another.

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If only the average gas installer could manage to explain all this nicely... :-)

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