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In January 2008 it was widely reported in the media about a ’heating fault that puts 3.5 million homes at risk’. This relates to a tragic incident in 2006 concerning the failure of a domestic hot water system, where the immersion heater thermostat failed.

The Heath and Safety Executive (HSE) carried out an investigation and determined it was due to a ’rare’ incident but was ‘strikingly similar’ to another tragic event in 2002.  

The seriousness of these two incidents within a four-year period has resulted in the HSE issuing a Safety Alert to landlords and householders regarding ‘a rare but potentially serious scalding risk’ from ’domestic hot water systems which include a fixed all-electric immersion heater in conjunction with a plastic cold water storage cistern or ‘tank’ located in the roof space’.  

In addition the Water Regulations Advisory scheme (WRAS), which is responsible for advising the water industry on acceptable plumbing practices, has issued an Information Note relating to the technical aspects that will allow plumbers, landlords and householders to carry out the relevant system checks.

One simple check you can do is to look at your cold water storage cistern (tank) in the roof space. Make sure it has a strong level board that supports the whole of the cistern. This should extend beyond the edges of the cistern and be properly supported underneath.

For the other checks you may need to seek professional advice.  

Further information can be found at:  


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