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Safety Measures

Chimney Fires | Carbon Monoxide Poisoning | Soot Safety | Disposal | Covid

I have a background in Health and Safety management. Working in your house and being responsible for maintaining your heating appliance is something I take very seriously. Below I detail some of the hazards associated with the safe operation of your fire, and the measures I take to complete my work with minimal risk to both myself and you.

Chimney Fires

Far from being inert, soot is the product of incomplete combustion and will be produced in even the most efficient stove or fireplace. Soot is a small, fine solid which is carried in the hot air rising from the fire. As it is produced from incomplete combustion it still contains energy and can be burnt.

It is sticky which allows it to adhere to the inner surface of the chimney. Over time, if allowed to build up, this can cause a layer of flammable material on the inner surface of a chimney.
If allowed to build up in a chimney, this soot can catch fire, which can cause a very intense fire within the chimney breast.

A chimney fire can create an intense heat and flame, drawing considerable air from the fireplace to ignite further soot. A chimney fire can be so intense that it can damage the chimney or liner leading to the potential for further spread.

A regular sweep will remove this material and reduce the risk.

Carbon Monoxide

A clean chimney or flue is essential for the unrestricted passage of smoke away from your fire. If the chimney is restricted by a soot build-up or blocked by another obstruction, it can limit the oxygen getting to the fire. This will cause an inefficient burn and increase the likelihood of carbon monoxide production. Carbon Monoxide is poisonous. It combines with your blood cells and reduces the blood’s ability to carry oxygen around your body.


A brief exposure to small amounts of carbon monoxide may cause headache, flushed cheeks, nausea, dizziness or muscle pain amongst other symptoms. Exposure to higher amounts may cause weakness, confusion, loss of consciousness and death. See the government website for more details.

See the government website for more detail

Soot Safety

One of the obvious hazards of having your chimney swept is the soot. I use appropriate tools and recognised methods to minimise contamination.

During the sweep, soot is pulled from the very top of your chimney to your fireplace or stove. Whilst the biggest fear might be the possibility of black marks on your carpets, soot is harmful to us. As it is such a fine powder, it can be inhaled, ingested or even absorbed through the skin.

Exposure to soot could cause coughing or breathing difficulties, which would be especially problematic for people who have existing respiratory health problems. It can also lead to chronic illness and is a carcinogen.

The risk is greater the more you are exposed to soot. That’s why you will probably tend your fire and clear the ash with little or no protection. As I am exposed to the hazard more regularly, I have to take more safety precautions.

To reduce my risk I use protective creams, wear nitrile gloves and protect my airway with an FFP3 face mask. I cover the fireplace or
stove with sheets to contain the soot and collect it with a vacuum

cleaner rated for the collection of hazardous materials. It is far more than a conventional domestic Henry vacuum cleaner.

When I am working, where possible it is best for others to be in another room.

Disposal

When the soot is collected it will be double-bagged and marked. If left with the homeowner it is usually acceptable to dispose of it within your standard household or domestic waste collection, in the same way as the cold ash from your fireplace. This can vary depending on the local council and will be the homeowner’s responsibility to check.

The quantity collected is usually less than a carrier bag size, so should not impact your usual waste collection significantly.

If you would prefer the soot to be removed from your premises it is considered hazardous waste, for which I have the appropriate waste carrier licence. If you would prefer I remove it there will be an additional charge to cover commercial waste disposal. Despite the small quantity, there is a significant charge for its disposal and this has to be taken to an official waste transfer station.

Covid

I have experience of working in a Covid safe environment. I am fully vaccinated and maintain my awareness of Covid through NHS publications. As with any service industry, I come in to contact with many people in different locations. I will never visit a house if I have any of the symptoms of Covid, or if believe I may have Covid.

My usual working safety practices include wearing a suitable respirator, nitrile gloves and regular hand sanitisation. If requested, I am able to stay separate from you and wear my protective equipment before even entering the house.

If you or anyone in your home is vulnerable, please let me know before I arrive so I don’t cause you any concern. I will also be happy to complete a Lateral Flow Test before entering, if the cost is covered or it is provided for me.