Safety warning over wooden pellet boiler fuel


SAFETY chiefs have issued warnings over boiler fuel which has caused nine deaths by carbon monoxide poisoning.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has issued a warning over wood pellets, which are often used to fire boilers in homes or schools as an alternative to gas.

Scottish councils now say they are taking precautions with the storage of wood pellets, and the Scottish Government has said.

A pregnant 28-year-old Swiss woman is among the people to have died as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning from the pellets, which release the toxic gas if not stored properly.



With prices for gas and oil soaring, using wood pellets made from compressed sawdust and off-cuttings as fuel have been growing.

But when stored in hot, enclosed spaces, the HSE says some pellets can produce potentially lethal amounts of carbon monoxide due to chemical reactions in the wood.

The HSE said: “Since 2002 there have been at least nine fatalities in Europe caused by carbon monoxide poisoning following entry into wood pellet storage areas.

“Although there have not been any incidents so far in the UK the use of wood pellets is increasing and awareness of this danger is required.

“Wood pellet boilers are used in homes and businesses as an alternative to oil or gas fired boilers.

“They are also being installed to replace coal-fired boilers, particularly in schools.”



In 2011, the wife of a Swiss caretaker entered a room containing the pellets for 60 households on his behalf, and later died from carbon monoxide poisoning.

In November 2010 a 38-year-old  Irish man died after entering the seven tonne wood pellet storage room for his boiler.

His wife and another man were taken to hospital after trying to pull him to safety.

The HSE recommends keeping the pellets in well-ventilated areas with signs warning people of the danger of entering them.

Amid a raft of other safety measures, they say no one should enter storage tanks for the pellets unless fully trained.

Four deaths were as a result of entering wood pellet storage rooms on ships.

Last night new restrictions were put in place on the way the fuel is stored.



Aberdeenshire Council has an operational wood pellet boiler at Banff Academy.

Other boilers for Peterhead Academy, a Stonehaven Care Home and Fraserburgh Swimming pool are being commissioned.

A spokeswoman said: “Following the safety notice issued by the Health and Safety Executive about dangers from entry into wood pellet storage areas, arrangements have been made for risk assessments to be undertaken at each of the four council sites where wood pellet boilers are currently in place.

“Any necessary changes will be made.

“All biomass boilers and pellet storage hoppers are located in secure locations with restricted access.”

A Moray Council spokesman said: “There are currently two biomass boilers in council-owned property in Moray, although both are maintained by the lessee rather than the council.

We are aware of the safety issue that has been raised and will be drawing it to the attention of the lessees.”

Scottish Government spokesperson said: “There have not been any incidents in the UK.

“However the use of wood pellets is increasing  and we would urge all those who use, install, maintain or distribute wood pellet boilers and/or manufacture/store/distribute wood pellets to heed the advice of the Health and Safety Executive when storing wood pellets.”