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HSE to look at twin-pipe flue concerns

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) says it is ready to listen to installers’ concerns about twin-pipe flues which they say are “not inspectable” and therefore unsafe.

This follows the death of a young woman from suspected carbon monoxide poisoning at the Bedfont Lakes development in Hounslow, London where, as H&V News revealed two weeks ago (March 3), boilers featured twin-pipe flue systems.

The incident is being investigated by the Metropolitan Police and the HSE. Twin-pipe flue systems are not illegal and the cause of death in this case has not been proven but some installers have expressed concern about twin-pipe flue systems.

Twin-pipe flues can run up to 60 feet in length and are sometimes concealed in ceiling voids or pass through neighbouring properties. They have become popular in new-build flats because they allow boilers to be fitted far away from external walls and in space-saving locations.

But the Association of Registered Gas Installers (ARGI) says installers are left to deal with the consequences of inspection problems associated with twin-pipe flue systems. “It’s wrong to let people put something in that you know doesn’t meet the conditions laid down to protect people’s health,” said ARGI chairman Tony Brunton. 

“CORGI says installers should inspect all they can get access to and if you have reason to believe the flue might not be intact, the supply should be disconnected until the flue is proven to be competent. But how do you do a flue check on 40-50 feet of flue?”

“If a customer’s flue passes through their neighbours’ properties and I say it will cost £800 to check it, they will look at me as if I am daft. We want common sense to prevail. We are being put in a terrible position,” Mr Brunton added.

CORGI’s Technical Bulletin 200 gives guidance on installing and maintaining flues within ceiling voids. It notes that “in certain circumstances it may not be possible to undertake all of these checks fully. The checks should therefore be undertaken on a ‘best endeavours’ basis and a judgment will need to be made as to whether sufficient information is available to complete an adequate risk assessment.

Where this is not the case, further investigation may be necessary, eg exposure of part of the flue system to achieve visual inspection.”

A spokeswoman for CORGI said that “where possible, a ceiling void should not be used as a route for the flue system and an alternative route should be found where possible.”

The HSE, meanwhile, said it would take a “serious look” at ARGI’s evidence concerning twin-pipe flues.

“We would be happy to engage with ARGI, listen to their views and take their evidence into serious consideration,” a spokesman said.

Gas safety campaigner Stephanie Trotter said she had been in touch with a Hounslow residents’ group following the Bedfont Lakes incident. She said she was waiting to find out more about the circumstances of the death but added that twin-pipe flues were questionable in principle.

“Anything that makes it more difficult to inspect and properly clean flues is to be discouraged. You want something easy and obvious,” Ms Trotter said.