Rhianna Hardie Coroner Underestimates Potential Risk From Failing Heating Appliances The trade association for the plumbing and heating industry is warning that even more homes could be affected by potential failings in their hot water systems than the 3.5 million suggested by coroner Michael Rose, following the tragic death of Rhianna Hardie.
The guidance provided by the various sources to date has advised home owners to only look more closely if an immersion heating system over 10 years old is in use. This advice is potentially flawed as other forms of hot water system can also "run away" continuously heating water like the faulty immersion heater cited in this particular case, which when coupled with the defective installation of a cold water storage cistern with unsupported base has the potential for a repeat occurrence.
The Association of Plumbing and Heating Contractors (APHC) says more than 5 million homes could be affected by hot water systems heated by other fuel types when installed in conjunction with an inadequately mounted cistern and is concerned that more families could be affected than at first estimated. John Thompson, Technical Services Manager of APHC, says: "While the coroner was absolutely right to warn people aboutthe thermostat failure in an electrical immersion heater, it is not the only potential danger to homeowners and tenants.
Risks exist with a broad range of other heating appliances. For example, gas or oil-fired hot water systems fitted with a single thermostat have the ability to be able to continue to heat the water to boiling point if the thermostat fails. Similarly solid fuel systems with no thermostat or with simple thermostatic controls that can get jammed open in use will create considerably more heat than immersion heaters." This case was not just as a result of a faulty immersion heater thermostat, the incorrect installation of the cistern was a major contributory factor.
Cisterns correctly fitted on an adequate base can readily receive boiling water for many hours without failure. A combination of faults gave rise to this sad case, however more than just homes with immersion heaters fitted over ten years old should be checked." APHC now looks to Government to ensure the review of Part G of the Building Regulations is adequate in ensuring that a repeat of the tragedy does not occur and calls for wider dialogue and involvement of key stakeholders in providing effective guidance.
Clive Dickin, CEO of APHC, says: "The review has been on the Government agenda for almost three years and a lack of resources in Communities and Local Government has resulted in this being placed as a low priority. In addition not all facets of the Plumbing and Heating Industry are being engaged in this process which will give rise to amendments being questioned, especially in light of the incomplete information being given to consumers in this case. If a review of this nature is to take place all stakeholders should be involved ensuring safety is not compromised." Advice provided by the various experts in this case lead the media to focus solely on the immersion heater fault and not on other heating appliances or cistern support issues.
Consumers should be informed of the other areas of weakness. Following the inquest verdict, APHC has issued comprehensive guidance for consumers, available at http://www.competentpersonsscheme.co.uk/news/rhianna-hardie-inquest-guidance-46.aspx. The Guidance tells consumers what sort of warning signs they should look for and the action they should take if they are concerned.
While the Association reminds consumers that the likelihood of a similar fault is low, it is better to be safe than sorry and they should contact a qualified plumbing and heating engine