Boilers require regular maintenance and inspection to keep them working properly and to ensure they do not expose employees and other persons to health and safety risks.
Your legal duties
Employers, self-employed persons, employees, designers, manufacturers and suppliers all have legal obligations to workplace safety under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (OHS Act) and Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017 (OHS Regulations).
Find out about your occupational health and safety obligations relating to plant on WorkSafe's Plant and your legal duties page.
Boiler inspections and maintenance
Without maintenance and inspection, the safety and reliability of a boiler cannot be ensured and may expose employees and other people to risks to their health and safety. For example, scale formation can cause hot spots inside boilers which can lead to an explosion.
Employers, including self-employed persons, have a duty to ensure plant such as boilers is inspected to an extent that monitors any risks associated with the plant's use. As an employer you should have a competent person carry out periodic internal and external inspections of unattended boilers, including operational tests and necessary maintenance to ensure boilers are safe and reliable. Periodic inspections should assess the soundness of the boiler and its suitability for service, in line with design conditions and normal use.
A certificate or report of inspection should state that the boiler is safe to operate before it returns to use after being cleaned, inspected, serviced or repaired.
An effective boiler inspection and maintenance program should include:
ensure a pre-operation check is carried out
perform blowdown of water gauge glasses to remove impurities which may affect their accuracy
check the operation of any water-level security equipment, such as a low-water device
check the boiler pressure and water gauge level to ensure it is within the recommended parameters
ensure that any steam leak is rectified immediately
carry out blowdown as recommended by the boiler water treatment company to ensure chemicals are within recommended ranges to prevent scale formation inside the boiler
ensure exposed hot surfaces including piping, are insulated and/or guarded
ensure safety data sheets (SDS) for boiler chemicals are current and readily accessible to any person on the premises
ensure appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) is provided
ensure no flammable substances are stored in the boiler's vicinity. Under the Dangerous Goods (Storage and Handling) Regulations 2022, an occupier of premises where dangerous goods are stored and handled must ensure that, so far as is reasonably practicable, ignition sources are not present in any hazardous area within the premises
ensure fire extinguishers are available and serviced at 6-monthly intervals
Employers also have a responsibility to make sure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that plant that is not in use, including boilers, is left in a state that does not create a risk to any person.
For more information about boiler inspection and maintenance, refer to Australian Standards AS/NZS 3788:2006 (R2017) Pressure equipment – In-service inspection and AS 2593-2004 (R2016) Boilers – Safety management and supervision systems.
As an employer or self-employed person, you must keep a record of any inspection and maintenance on boilers with a hazard level A, B or C as determined by the Australian Standard AS 4343:2014 Pressure equipment—Hazard levels. You must keep the inspection and maintenance records for the period you have management or control of the plant.
Dangerous goods and hazardous substances
Employees who inspect or maintain boilers may be exposed to hazardous substances such as perchloroethylene and hydrofluoric acid, which are common in dry cleaning chemicals, and dangerous goods that can create risks such as fire, explosion, corrosion and poisoning.
Employers can use a range of measures to control risks from the use of hazardous substances and dangerous goods. Control measures include:
undertaking regular maintenance to repair leaks in a timely manner
providing mechanical ventilation
displaying signs warning of the hazards
ensuring all personnel are trained and supervised
providing current SDSs and a dangerous goods register
enforcing strict hygiene and ensuring PPE is worn
ensuring an emergency eyewash facility is in the immediate vicinity
ensuring flammable liquids are separated from ignition sources
providing storage cabinets and shelving designed for the hazards associated with the substance
for example, corrosive-resistant flammable liquid storage with a sign
AS/NZS 1200:2015 – Pressure equipment
AS 2593-2004 (R2016) Boilers – Safety management and supervision systems