Carbon Monoxide (CO) is a toxic gas that is odourless and colourless, meaning that is almost impossible to identify without a proper detector. According to the Department of Health, carbon monoxide poisoning in the home causes approximately 50 deaths a year in the UK, and up to 4,000 medical visits.
Carbon monoxide is produced when fuel is not burnt properly, so appliances such as boilers, gas fires and cookers, can be high risk within the home. It is therefore strongly recommended to get these fuel-burning appliances checked regularly by a registered engineer, and have a CO alarm placed close by.
Unfortunately, cases of CO poisoning continue to rise, and there is still a profound lack of understanding of the gas. This is a serious issue national campaigns like Project SHOUT are trying to tackle. It is therefore fundamental, particularly if you provide rental properties, to ensure your tenants are aware of the potential harm of carbon monoxide, and that you undertake the appropriate safety precautions.
If you are interested in providing a handout to tenants, or educating friends/family on carbon monoxide. You can download FireAngel’s Carbon Monoxide eBook here.
Given carbon monoxide regulation varies throughout the UK for both the private and social housing sector, it can be difficult to fully comprehend which regulations apply to whom. This is in addition to understanding the difference between legal requirements and recommended best practice. In light of this, here is an overview -with additional infographics – to simplify how CO regulations vary throughout the UK according to location, type of accommodation and specific appliance installed.
Under the Building Regulations Approved Document J, for England and Wales, it is mandatory to fit a carbon monoxide alarm “where a new or replacement fixed solid fuel appliance (e.g. wood and coal burning, not gas) is installed in a dwelling”.
Furthermore, under new legislation introduced in October 2015, private residential landlords in England are obliged to fit a carbon monoxide alarm in any room with a solid fuel appliance.
In addition with annual safety checks on each appliance and flue, this aims to ensure tenants are adequately protected against fire and carbon monoxide. Failure to comply with the legislation, and private landlords are susceptible to pay a £5,000 fine.
Whilst social housing providers are exempt from this carbon monoxide legislation, the best practice is to implement the same level of protection for tenants as the private market. This is with particular consideration of the high percentage of vulnerable tenants in social housing, and also given the likelihood of this discrepancy between social and private legislation being resolved in the future.
In section 13 of the Housing Scotland Act 2014, it describes that there must be “satisfactory provision for giving warning if carbon monoxide is present in a concentration hazardous to health”. Furthermore, in Technical Handbook 2 of the Building Regulations, it states that a CO alarm should be fitted when a new/replacement fixed combustion appliance is installed. This is building on the Scottish Government Statutory Guidance (2015), that requires private landlords to install carbon monoxide alarms in every room or interconnected space where there is a fixed combustion appliance.
However, as stated in Scotland’s HouseMark guide “social landlords have no requirement to install CO alarms in their homes built before October 2013, unless they replace a fixed combustion appliance (such as a gas boiler). At present, a private rented home must meet more stringent safety requirements than many socially rented properties”.
It has recently come to light that the Housing (Scotland) Act will be updated to ensure a high standard of protection from smoke, fire & carbon monoxide for ALL Scottish homes, not just private rented housing. This will require both private and social housing to fit carbon monoxide detectors “whenever there is a carbon-fuelled appliance or flue”
In Northern Ireland there is no private landlord legislation to install carbon monoxide alarms, but Technical document L of the Building Regulations states “Where any combustion appliance is installed, reasonable provision must be made to detect and give warning of the presence of CO gas at levels harmful to people.”
Furthermore, in accordance with a change to the Building Regulations (Northern Ireland) in October 2012, the installation of smoke and carbon monoxide alarm is required when extending, renovating or building a new property with a fuel-burning appliance. Therefore, legislation dictates that a CO alarm must be fitted when a new fuel-burning appliance is installed or replaced, but housing providers should also ensure their tenants are currently protected, and at all times.
A housing provider has a duty of care to protect tenants from something they cannot detect themselves, and preparation needs to be made in light of future regulation amendments.
As installing a CO alarm is the only available option to help detect and prevent the effects of carbon monoxide, it is highly important this is done correctly. Here are some best practice recommendations:
The British Standard EN 50292 standard also recommends that an alarm is not fitted:
Click on the following to watch a video on how to install a FireAngel carbon monoxide alarm.
Otherwise, if you’d like to find out more about fire safety in social housing, you can download our ‘How To Manage Fire Safety In Social Housing’ eBook here.
When choosing a CO alarm, always ensure it complies with British Standard EN 50291 and carries a British or European approval mark, such as a Kitemark.
The latest CO alarms such as in FireAngel’s SONA range – the battery powered CO alarm uses Wi-Safe 2 wireless technology to intelligently interlink all smoke, heat and CO alarms in the property to offer an enhanced level of protection to tenants. Therefore, if the carbon monoxide alarm activates in the kitchen, then the other interlinked smoke and heat alarms throughout the property will sound.
These interlinked alarms will also mimic the sound pattern of the triggering alarm. For example, if a CO alarm activates, then the smoke alarms will mimic its sound pattern. This allows the tenant to act accordingly e.g. by evacuating in a smoke alarm, or by opening all the windows, turning off all fuel-burning appliances and then evacuating in a CO alarm sound pattern.
Furthermore, identification of the sounding alarm (by silencing all the others) can be easily done in a Wi-Safe 2 network, by either pressing a button on the sounding alarm or using a control unit’s ‘locate function’. This provides tenants with a means to quickly identify the source of the problem, and so quickly respond.
As mentioned previously, private landlords in the England are currently required to fit carbon monoxide alarms when there is a solid fuel-burning appliance, but not gas appliances. This is inconsistent with the rest of the UK, and a recent campaign by MP Eddie Hughes is hoping to change this; the Carbon Monoxide (Detection and Safety) Bill. You can find out more about the bill here, or you can follow the campaign on twitter by using the hashtag #SilentKillerBill.
All landlords are recommended to fit carbon monoxide alarms in any room where there is a gas or fuel burning appliance. Not only will this protect tenants from CO poisoning, but it also safeguards landlords against potential changes in legislation.