Biomass Boiler Safety

The Primary Risks and Hazards of Biomass Systems

Anyone involved in the use, installation and maintenance of a boiler system needs to have health and safety at the forefront of their minds. Whatever type of system you are using, where there is a heat source and water, there is always the potential for accidents and injury if someone is careless or does not know what they are doing.

This is particularly the case when it comes to biomass boilers, for which there are a variety of factors that need to be considered, including correct installation, appropriate storage of fuel and safe operation.

Regulations

There are no specific Health and Safety regulations for biomass systems as such, but if you have one professionally installed, the fitter is responsible for ensuring compliance with the Health and Safety at Work Act of 1974 and the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations from 2015.

However, the responsibility does not end with the installer. The owner and operator also has a duty to ensure both the system and the fuel is used correctly and for the purposes intended – this is particularly important if the boiler is operating in a public place.

Inherent risks

Most systems are imported from elsewhere within Europe, so it is important to ensure that yours is manufactured in accordance with the appropriate safety standards. Look for a CE mark, which will tell you that it meets European requirements.

The risks associated with a biomass system essentially fall into three categories, which are fuel delivery, fuel storage / handling and combustion. We will take a look at each in turn.

Delivery

The fuel for a biomass system is typically delivered by truck, which tips the wooden pellets into a store. The risks associated with a large vehicle manoeuvring in a confined space are obvious, but there are also considerations relating to potential falls from height, people getting caught in machinery and even asphyxiation if someone is in the storage facility when the delivery takes place.

It is important to keep the area well clear of people, particularly children, and pets when delivery takes place, and to make absolutely certain that there is nothing and nobody in the store prior to unloading.

Storage

When storing a flammable substance, the foremost risk is that of fire. Keep the storage area secure, and ensure nobody smokes in or close to it.

There is also the potential for slips and falls, particularly where children are concerned. A wood store or silo can look like a tempting place to play, so keeping it locked up tight is doubly important if there are kids around.

Combustion

The risks here come in three sub categories. The wet side risks are much the same as for any other type of boiler where hot water, at potential pressure, is involved. It is important to bear in mind that unlike other boilers, a biomass device cannot be instantly shut down.

The fire side risks are specific to biomass. The type of combustion means that users are inevitably getting close to the fire source, and therefore correct operation is absolutely essential to reduce the risk of fire.

Finally, there is the risk associated with flues and chimneys. Toxic gases, including CO, will be created by the combustion process, and adequate ventilation is imperative. There is also the potential for explosive gases to build up, and for this reason, having explosion relief measures built into the flue is an excellent safety precaution to consider.