NT: warning over gas heater safety checks before winter

The following article is a news item provided for the benefit of the Workplace Health and Safety profession. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Institute of Health & Safety.
Monday, 18 April, 2022 - 12:15
Policy & legislation
Northern Territory

NT WorkSafe has issued a safety reminder that gas heating appliances should be checked and working properly as the central region of Australia gears up for winter.

NT WorkSafe’s acting manager of technical services Nadia Rimmer said NT WorkSafe regulates the safe use of gas appliances in both commercial and domestic settings under the Dangerous Goods legislation and gas safety remains a pressing issue, especially during winter, following the numerous gas heating-related incidents that have occurred in Australian homes and workplaces over the years.

“Carbon monoxide spillage accounts for the majority of cases and is typically caused by faulty, unmaintained or misused gas appliances operating in a poorly ventilated space,” she said.

She explained that the release and build-up of harmful gases like carbon monoxide put individuals at risk for serious health and safety consequences, especially in enclosed spaces such as a caravan or bedroom.

“Exposure to products of combustion can leave a person dizzy, nauseous, or worse, suffocated to death,” she said.

“Carbon monoxide is especially dangerous as it is a colourless and odourless fume and can enter the body without any warning, leaving victims unaware of their exposure to such toxicity until the damage has already been done.”

Rimmer said people should ensure that their gas appliances are free of the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning by having them serviced by a licenced gasfitter.

Licenced gasfitters are professionally trained to install, repair and maintain gas appliances. They can also conduct negative pressure and carbon monoxide spillage tests, assuring households and organisations of their safety before any gas operations take place.

However, NT WorkSafe warns owners not to wait until an appliance becomes old and faulty prior to having it checked.

“We recommend that servicing be done once every two years, or annually if the equipment is more than ten years old,” said Rimmer.

“With regular cleaning and servicing, issues causing overheating and burner problems, safety control defects, ventilation concerns and other issues that may develop over time would be fixed before they can cause any accidents.”

NT WorkSafe also encouraged the use of a carbon monoxide alarm that can easily detect a gas leak but said these alarms can only serve as a backup measure and should not substitute regular appliance servicing.

In addition, NT WorkSafe reminded owners to be wary of fire risks by ensuring that their gas appliances are placed in a well-ventilated area and adequately distanced from flammable surfaces and materials such as clothing.