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Safety of Oil-Fired Boilers and Oil Storage Tanks

Consumer Protection Act 1987
The General Product Safety Regulations 1994
Competent Person (Statutory Instrument 2007 No 3384)
The Control of Pollution (Oil Storage) (England) Regulations 2001

Safety of Oil-Fired Boiler Installations and Oil Storage Tanks

The installation and operation of oil-fired systems must be safe. 

It is also important that oil is safely stored. 

The Oil Firing Technical Association (OFTEC) was launched in April 1991 to construct a framework within which oil firing in the United Kingdom and Republic Of Ireland could operate with a greater degree of technical expertise, efficiency and safety.   The installation of oil-fired systems should meet the standards set out by OFTEC and should be installed, maintained and serviced by OFTEC registered engineers.  If your system was not installed by an OFTEC registered engineers, you are advised to seek advice as to its safety.

Landlord Installation Check

There is no legal requirement in the United Kingdom or the Republic of Ireland for a landlord to obtain a landlord safety certificate for oil fired equipment installed within a let property. However, BS 5410: Part 1 requires oil fired appliances and equipment to be serviced periodically in accordance with the Manufacturer’s instructions. Oil storage tanks and oil supply pipe work should be checked for general condition and any leaks repaired.

Letting agents and landlords are advised to ensure that an OFTEC Registered Engineer services and inspects oil fired installations at least annually. Additionally, planned maintenance reduces the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. There have been no recorded deaths relating to oil fired appliances and carbon monoxide. However, any fossil fuel burning appliance has the potential to produce carbon monoxide if incorrectly installed or maintained.

A carbon monoxide detector should be fitted adjacent to any oil-fired boiler or as advised by your OFTEC registered engineer.  The battery should be checked at least weekly.

At the request of tenants, letting agents, and landlords, OFTEC has devised an OFTEC CD/12 Landlord Oil Installation Check form where there is a need to verify an installations compliance with the Building Regulations, health & safety and efficiency regulatory requirements. OFTEC Registered Service and Commissioning Technicians are the only persons that can obtain a CD/12 Landlord Oil Installation
Check form, which comes in triplicate format to allow a copy to be retained by the tenant, letting agent/landlord and the Registered Technician.

OFTEC advises that completion of a CD/12 form should not require intrusive work to be carried out on the installed equipment and does not negate the need for equipment to undergo scheduled periodic maintenance. Information recorded should reflect the operational condition of the equipment at the time that the technician was in attendance.

With the letting agents/landlords consent, an OFTEC CD/11 Service and Commissioning Report form can be completed for the purpose of an oil installation check. A CD/11 can also be used to record observations during scheduled maintenance, as is required by BS 5410: Part 1.

Where tenancy agreements put the responsibility of appliance maintenance on the tenant, it is recommended that tenants use an OFTEC Registered Technician who can provide a copy of an OFTEC CD/12 or CD/11 to demonstrate that they have met the terms of their tenancy agreement

Safety Issues :

Below are some of the safety factors an OFTEC registered engineer will bear in mind when advising on the installation, operation and maintenance of an oil-fried system.
Safety of Oil Storage Tanks
Modern oil storage tanks come in all shapes and sizes and can be made from plastic or steel. The size and type that your OFTEC Registered Technician recommends will depend on your individual requirements.  OFTEC has created a set of standards which the tanks should meet.


 To minimise the risk of pollution from an oil spill, non-domestic oil storage tanks exceeding 200 litres must be provided with secondary containment (bunding).  This can be achieved by installing an integrally bunded tank or by constructing a concrete or masonry bund, to CIRIA Report 163, around a single skinned tank. The bund must capable of containing at least 110% of the oil storage tank’s capacity.

Bunding will in some circumstances also be required for domestic installations.  The installation engineer will conduct a risk assessment to determine if one is required, typically in premises close to a river, well or controlled water source.

Safe Standing

The oil tank must have a base that is suitable throughout the year.  The base must be adequate for the weight of the tank, non-combustible, imperforte and level.  It should be constructed of concrete, paving stones or stonework and extend at least 300mm beyond all sides of the tank.

Location - Fire Separation Distances

Although it is unlikely that a fire could be started by stored oil in a tank, when siting your tank, you are required to comply with fire separation distances. 

For domestic premises the separation distances are:

1.8m away from non-fire rated eaves of a building;

1.8m away from a non-fire building or structure (e.g. garden sheds);

1.8m away from openings (such as doors or windows) in a fire rated building or structure (e.g. brick built house/garage);

1.8m away from oil fired appliance flue terminals;

760mm away from a non-fire rated boundary such as a wooden boundary fence;

600mm away from screening (e.g. trellis and foliage) that does not form part of the boundary

Additionally, where a tank contains more than 3500 litres any openings in the walls between 1.8 and 6m away from the tank should be fitted with 1hour fire resisting glazing or 1hour fire resisting self-closing doors.

If these distances cannot be complied with then a fire protection barrier with at least a 30 minute rating must be provided with a minimum separation distance of 100mm between the tank and the fire rated barrier (or such greater distance as the manufacture of the tank may specify).

For commercial premises the separation distances are set out in a downloadable leaflet from OFTEC.

Tanks may in some circumstances be stored inside, such as in a garage or outhouse, but in the case of domestic installation, the chamber must have a fire rating of 60 minutes.

An oil storage tank sited inside of a non-domestic building must be fully enclosed within a fire resistant chamber. The walls, roof and doors of the chamber will require a fire rating of between 30 minutes and 4 hours, depending on the class of oil storage and the capacity of the tank. Consideration should also be given to access, ventilation, fire extinguishing equipment and electrical safety within the chamber.

Building Regulations

Oil storage tank installations need to comply with regional Building Regulations. In England & Wales, OFTEC Registered Technicians can self certify their own work without involving Local Authority Building Controls.  If you do not use an OFTEC registered engineer you will need to obtain a Building Control Notice and arrange for an inspection which can be costly and time consuming. Similar rules apply in Scotland where you may need to apply for a warrant.

Safety of Flues, Chimneys and Air Supply

A flue is a pipe from which waste (flue) gases pass from the appliance to the outside atmosphere. A chimney is a construction which contains flue. Masonry chimneys should always be lined with a flexible flue liner, as specified by the appliance manufacturers, and be fitted with a cowl to prevent rain ingress. Liners should be replaced whenever a new appliance is fitted.

There are two different types of flue system available – open, and room sealed balanced.

In order for fuel to burn, oxygen is needed so it is essential to provide a dedicated air supply for appliances which are of the open flue type. The size of openings required is dependant on the appliance location, output and where the air supply is to be taken from.

Both open and room sealed balanced flue appliances will require additional air supply for cooling purposes where they are located within a cupboard.

Open flue appliances should not be installed in a bedroom, bathroom or garage. Appliances which are of the room sealed balanced flue type should be used in these locations.

Restrictions apply to extract fans where they are located within the same room as an open flue appliance.

Every type of flue and chimney should comply with European and National Legislation with regard to materials, design, and flue termination point.

Flue terminations should be positioned where flue gases will disperse quickly, will not re-enter the property via windows, doors, etc and will not cause nuisance to property owners or neighbours.

Termination below a balcony, carport or any other area where flue gases might stagnate should also be avoided.

Extra care needs to be taken when selecting a suitable position for a condensing boiler flue termination. When operating at their most efficient, condensing boilers can emit a ‘plume’ of water vapour from the flue terminal. White in colour, this vapour is harmless, but should be considered when siting the boiler.

Where a flue terminal is located less than two metres from ground level or where it could be accessed by people, it must be protected with a terminal guard.

Maintenance and Servicing

All elements of the installation (including the tank) should be maintained and properly serviced once per annum by an OFTEC registered engineer.

An OFTEC Registered Technician will advise you on the requirements necessary to keep your appliances safe.

Consult the OFTEC Register 

Carbon Dioxide

Although there have been no recorded deaths associated with oil burning appliances, awareness and sensible precautions can dramatically reduce this risk of exposure to Carbon Dioxide. Fit a carbon dioxide alarm adjacent to your oil-fired boiler or as advised by your OFTEC registered engineer.

Contact us to help you conduct a full risk assessment of your premises

Additional Reading:

Gas Cooking Appliances
Gas Heating Appliances
Safety of Oil-fired Boilers
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

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A Guide to Landlord's Duties under the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations