Maintenance of all gas installations and appliances must be carried out in accordance with the Gas Safety Installation and Use Regulations 1998. If you employ someone to carry out gas work, you are required by law to ensure that the person carrying out the work is a certificated competent technician. Currently this means that they must be a Gas Safe Registered Engineer with a valid certificate of competence relevant to the particular type of gas work involved (for example, non-domestic).
Effective maintenance of gas appliances requires an ongoing programme of regular/periodic inspections, together with any necessary remedial work. The Gas Safety Regulations require employers to ensure that any gas appliance, installation pipework or flue is maintained in a safe condition to prevent risk of injury.
You should have a maintenance plan for appliances, pipework and ancillary equipment on site, with reference to the manufacturer’s instructions for the specific requirements and periods between maintenance. It is good practice to have at least annual gas safety checks of appliances and associated pipework.
In the case of boarding schools or residential accommodation that is provided as part of a job (such as a caretaker’s home on school property) landlords have additional duties. This includes undertaking an annual gas safety check and ensuring appliances, pipework and flues are maintained and in a safe condition.
Gas appliances or fittings must not be used if it is known or suspected that they are unsafe.
Further guidance is given in the HSE Approved Code of Practice. Where doubt exists, specialist advice should be sought.
Electrical heating and hot water heaters are covered under fixed electrical system testing.
Extreme care should be taken if any portable heating is used. Portable heaters present a risk of:
- over-loading the electrical system
A risk assessment should be completed and control measures established before any portable heating is used within the school.
Oil burners should be serviced at least annually, ideally at the end of the winter by a competent person.
The Control of Pollution (Oil Storage) (England) Regulations 2001 cover the storage of oil at schools and other establishments.
All tanks, bunds and pipework should be regularly checked for signs of damage and it’s recommended that they are checked at least weekly, with a more detailed annual inspection and service by qualified inspectors to ensure that any potential defects are found and rectified.
There are security and environmental issues regarding oil storage areas and these areas should be as resistant as possible to unauthorised interference and vandalism.
If there are any permanent taps or valves where oil can be discharged from the tank to open areas, these should be fitted with a lock and should be locked shut when not in use. Where appropriate, notices should be displayed telling users to keep valves and trigger guns locked when they are not in use.
Pumps should be protected from unauthorised use and taps and valves marked to show whether they are open or closed. Where these are not in use, they should be fitted with a blanking cap or plug.
Professional advice should be sought where schools have redundant oil storage tanks, particularly if the removal of redundant tanks is proposed, as there is a risk of fire or explosion.
Other heating equipment
In recent years there has been an increase in the use of alternative heating equipment to reduce the carbon footprint of burning fossil fuels, such as biomass boilers, ground source, air source and heat recovery.
Due to the wide variety of equipment and methods of heat generation available, you should follow your manufacturer’s recommendations on inspection. This should be incorporated in the school annual maintenance plan.
Radiators and fan convectors
In a traditional ‘wet’ heating system (circulation of hot water), heat is delivered to areas of the school via either radiators or electric fan heaters which force air over a radiator to blow hot air.
A closed water circuit operates under pressure and should be inspected periodically for leaks.
Fan heaters should be checked and inspected periodically to check the fan operation and condition of electrical connections.
Hot water temperature
The School Premises (England) Regulations 2012 say that hot water at the point of use should not pose a scalding risk. Suitable arrangements should be made to ensure that control measures are in place and functioning effectively.
Legionella bacteria can grow in hot and cold water systems and can be harmful to health if inhaled. Growth is more likely to occur where cold water temperatures are greater than 20°C, when hot water temperatures are below 50°C or when water is permitted to stagnate due to pipe work dead legs or infrequent outlet usage.
Legionnaires’ disease is normally only contracted where water is sprayed and small droplets of water containing the bacteria are inhaled, such as in a shower.
As an employer, or a person in control of the premises, you have a duty to:
- appoint a competent person to take day-to-day responsibility for controlling any identified risk, sometimes referred to as the ‘responsible person’ - this person may be a member of school staff but they should have sufficient knowledge of the water system and sufficient authority to deal with the issues
- identify and assess sources of risk in accordance with HSE Approved Code of Practice L8
- prepare a written scheme (or course of action) for preventing or controlling the risk
- implement, manage and monitor the written scheme
- keep records and check that what has been done is effective
- if appropriate, notify the local authority that there is a cooling tower on site - however, it is very unlikely that cooling towers will be present on school sites
The risk assessment and preparation of the course of action should be undertaken by a company which offers these specialist services.
HSE have produced guidance about legionella and legionnaires’ disease.
Local exhaust ventilation
Air extract systems may be employed to maintain a safe environment by removing:
- hazardous fumes, as in the case of a laboratory fume cabinet or kitchen extract
- dusts and fumes, as in the case of technical workshops
Where such systems are installed, they should be adequately maintained as advised by the supplier or installer.
Mechanical extraction is often used to remove cooking fumes and heat, and to provide effective ventilation in kitchens. Build up of fat and other substances in filters and ducts will affect efficiency and increase the risk of fire. Planned maintenance should include regular removal and cleaning of grease filters and accessing ductwork for cleaning.
These systems also prevent the build up of gas fumes or leaks from kitchen equipment during cooking. For this reason, the extract system should be linked to the gas supply so that any flow of gas is prevented while the extract system is not working.
Filters can become blocked with residue from cooking and should be cleaned or replaced in accordance with the maintenance or supplier recommendations.
Local Exhaust Ventilation Systems (LEVs) may be used in fume cupboards and in workshops. They should be examined and tested at least every 14 months.
HSE provide guidance on LEVs, catering ventilation and catering maintenance.
Under Energy Performance of Buildings (Certificates and Inspections) (England and Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2012, an air conditioning system must be inspected by an energy assessor at regular intervals, not exceeding 5 years. Bi-annual checks and an annual maintenance schedule should continue as best practice.
If you have certain equipment (which includes stationary air-conditioning equipment), the Fluorinated Greenhouse Gases Regulations 2015 require you to check for fluorinated gas (F gas) leaks using an appropriately qualified person. The frequency of inspection will vary between 3 and 12 months, depending on the amount of F gas in the equipment.
Refrigerant based systems and other systems or equipment which contain a liquid or gas under pressure can cause serious injury and damage to property if they are not properly maintained.