Unsafe Situations Guidance
THE LAW HAS NOW CHANGED AND THIS INFORMATION IS NOW CONSIDERED OUT OF DATE
We shall publish a new; updated version very soon.
Having worked in this industry for several years, I can safely say that cutting a boiler off is one of the worst things that I have to do and if there is a way that I can make a repair, then it will certainly be explored. But; like all of my colleagues here at N4 Gas, we do have times where there is just no way that we can allow an appliance to run safely.
We are Gas Safe Registered and being Gas Safe Registered means that we have a legal duty to ensure that you and your family or business is kept safe. We have lots of legislative guidelines and although we don’t always agree with them all, we understand the principles behind all of the guidelines.
This entry aims to explain how the gas industry clasifies what we know as “unsafe situations” or what you might recognise as a jobs worth gas engineer who has cut your boiler off.
We have three main categories of unsafe situations; Not To Current Standards, At Risk and Immediately Dangerous and I am to set the record straight on what they all mean and what the legal implications are surrounding them all.
Not to Current Standards
This is the most commonly issued notice and will consist of an advisory. Looking through my diary for the past week; I can see that about 60% of the boilers that I visited have some form of Not to Current Standard warning raised against them.
They are often issued when the law surrounding a gas appliance’s installation has changed since the appliance was first installed. When you consider that gas engineers re-train and get re-tested every 5 years because of the amount of laws that do change and evolve, we can sometimes find appliances that are installed with long lists of Not to Current Standards, some of which are simply too long to document on the approved documentation.
A Not to Current Standards advisory is exactly that; it’s a notice to say that the installation could be better and doesn’t quite meet the standard that would be required in today’s market – It could also be that the appliance has not been installed in accordance with it’s manufacturer’s instructions.
If it’s a new appliance that has been installed but does not meet the current standards, then you may find your warranty will often be invalidated and you should seek redress with the installer as they are legally required to; put it right without charge, afterall; you paid them to do the job properly in the first place.
However, when a law gets changed once an appliance has been installed and signed off, the installer is no longer required to put right any new incompliance that may have not been instigated by the law change; as such, you would be required to foot the costs of the remedial works.
It should be noted however, that you are not required by law to bring an appliance or installation up to standard; whether that be tenanted, owner-occupier or in a business premise, it is simply a recommendation that the appliance is brought back to standard to ensure the best possible safety and lifespan of that appliance. It is also worth noting that for any appliance where you have been notified of a defect, you also become responsible for any issue that may result due to the non-compliance. A common example of this is that a boiler’s flue should have a guard on it when sited below 2m from the ground, if someone then burnt themself on the flue, they could, should they wish seek damages against you for not having an appliance installed to the current standards. Likewise in rented property; if a landlord has been advised that an issue has been identified and that issue causes damage to the tenant or their property, the landlord would be liable for the damages and compensation claim.
A Not to Current Standards notice is a low risk notice; simply letting you know that things could be improved with the installation of your appliance and does not mean that your appliance is unsafe. However, there are certain times when a Not to Current Standards will be accompanied with advice from an engineer that the appliance should not be used and this will often be when the engineer feels that a safety issue exists, but is not under the scope of the Gas Safety Unsafe Situations guidelines, for instance if there are exposed electrical cables near the appliance which could come into contact with a person, technically they are not covered by gas engineer rules, but as an educated professional, we will advise that they are dangerous and should be remedied or made safe prior to the appliance being used.
Now this unsafe situation is the one that seems to cause the most confusion. It is a notice to say that the engineer believes that your installation or appliance poses a significant risk to life and/or property and that the appliance and/or installation should not be used. However, it may not be possible to prove the level of risk posed. See also the comments I’ve made after the Immediately Dangerous explanation below.
At Risk is often issued when ventilation or flue defects exist on an installation or appliance. Especially older appliances when it comes to ventilation and newer appliances when it comes to flues being located in voids.
What this means is that the engineer is telling you that the appliance is unsafe and should not be used; they will, with your permission, turn the appliance off and label it. You will then be issued with paperwork indicating the fault(s) identified with the appliance and installation. You should not utilise the appliance until the fault(s) have been rectified.
If you do decide to use the appliance, you do so at your own risk and will be liable for any outcome. If you are a landlord or business owner; you should never allow your tenants or workers to operate an At Risk appliance as you may also be liable, which could void your insurance and leave you open for criminal prosecution.
Quite simple is this; the appliance or installation is dangerous and should not be used. It could be dangerous to life and/or property and the engineer will request that you give them permission to disable the appliance or installation, make it safe and label it. If you refuse to give permission, the engineer is required by law to follow a procedure to make your gas safe by contacting the National Grid who will despatch their engineers to carry out an enforced shut-off (Normally done by digging a hole in your driveway and physically cutting your gas pipe supply, then sending you the bill).
At Risk vs Immediately Dangerous
In both situations you should allow the engineer to carry out their legal duties and make the appliance or installation safe, after all, it is for your benefit.
I’ve found the best way to explain the At Risk and Immediately Dangerous argument to be the burnt and burning analogy. If you have a piece of wood and put a lighter under it, the piece of wood will burn and scorch, but it may not catch fire – This is At Risk…. When that piece of wood catches fire, then there is an instant indicator that the danger level has increased and this would equate to being an Immediately Dangerous situation.