Over the next three months I’ll be taking you on a walking tour. First, we’ll examine a boiler room, followed by chiller room, and then a central air-handling fan room. I will be pointing out what to look for in providing a quality assurance review of the specific equipment room. This tour can also be an annual or semi-annual training tour, too. It’s important to note that if the reader is a design engineer, he or she should take note of the comments herein as “lessons-learned” about maintaining a clean, well-ventilated, and safe space.


Walking towards the boiler room one should take note of the following:

  1. Is this room below grade? Should there be emergency plans documenting what to do in case of a flood?

  2. Is this a penthouse where lightning protection should be in place? Also, is there general exhaust and other, more toxic exhaust air being discharged within the area of the boiler room intake louvers?

  3. Whether inside the building or on the roof, is there adequate and safe access to the boiler room to bring in material inventory as well as remove and add new equipment through corridors, downstairs, upstairs, and on to the roof.


First Impressions:

  1. Walking into the boiler room, is it excessively hot?

  2. Are the floors clean, painted, and have yellow-and-black striped safety tape/paint to warn the walker of a tripping hazard, step up or down, or overhead hazard?

  3. Are the surfaces free of dust and the floors free of debris?

  4. Are there any fumes in the air within the room to draw concern?


Things to look for:

  1. Walking around the boiler room, are all the panels clearly labeled, and are their access doors able to be open 100 percent?

  2. Is the boiler itself clean of dust as well as the piping associated with the unit(s)?

  3. Are all the pipes clearly labeled along with a direction-of-flow arrow to assist the operator?

  4. Antiquated as valve tags are, these valves tags should be numbered to match a valve tag chart located in a convenient location e.g., communication center bulletin board in the boiler room where other important documents should be posted.

  5. A more modern method of valve tagging, as well as equipment identification, would consist of bar-coded documentation and handheld device applications for those designated to have access to this information.

  6. Are the appropriate backflow preventer(s) with relief piping terminating at a funnel drain(s)?

  7. Is there adequate lighting to highlight potential bumping or tripping hazards when walking around the area?

  8. Is there task lighting wherever necessary, such as at the communication center bulletin board to easily read documents, MSDS sheets, emergency contact lists, and valve tags?

  9. Are there emergency eye wash stations and spray bottles strategically located for quick use with associated safety instructions and the appropriate phone number(s)?

  10. Are the required pipes insulated completely, or are there sections of pipe requiring insulation repair?

  11. Are there any water or steam leaks visible that require repair and safety signs posted adjacent to the leak(s)?

  12. Are there water and steam gages located wherever necessary to efficiently monitor the boiler room system’s performance? If so, are these gages all in good operating condition and have the correct operating range with the gage’s arrow fluctuating within the middle range of the gage?

  13. Are drainpipes extended to funnel drains, or does the draining water spill on to the floor creating a slipping hazard?

  14. At the communication center bulletin board, are there system flow diagrams and sequences of operation documents posted for quick reference?

  15. At the communication center bulletin board, are there the required personal protection equipment (PPE) — e.g., safety glasses and hearing protection plugs — readily available?


The operations manager, as well as the safety officer, should use the above information, as well as other instructions to routinely schedule training sessions and maintain a record of date, who attended, and what was discussed to keep training and safety records of boiler room operation current.

Refer to the next two month’s Tomorrow’s Environment columns for additional “things to look for and/or consider” that may pertain to this boiler room walk tour. Next month we’ll take a chiller room walking tour.