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. It’s produced when fuel is not burnt properly, so appliances such as boilers or gas fires can be high risk within the home. It is therefore strongly recommended to get these fuel-burning appliances checked regularly by a gas-safe registered engineer, and have an audible 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 and family on carbon monoxide, you can download FireAngel’s Carbon Monoxide eBook here.
As of 26th September 2021, the European Standard on carbon monoxide EN 50291-1:2010 has been withdrawn by BSI. A new version of the standard is EN 50291-1:2018 and will be enforced from 27th September 2022.
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 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) is installed in a dwelling”.
Furthermore, under 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, may result in a fine for landlords of £5,000.
Since October 2022, social housing providers are also held accountable to this carbon monoxide legislation. A smoke alarm must be installed on each storey of a property and a carbon monoxide alarm must also be installed in any room with a fixed combustion appliance or when a fixed combustion appliance is fitted. This includes boilers, fire and water heaters, but excludes gas cookers. Landlords must also repair or replace alarms when notified of a fault, but regular alarm testing will remain the responsibility of the resident.
From December 2022, The Welsh Government implemented changes to the Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016, which under the regulations for Fitness for Human Habitation (FFHH) requires landlords to ensure working carbon monoxide detectors are fitted in their properties where there is any gas appliance, an oil-fired combustion appliance or a solid fuel burning combustion appliance.
Since February 1st, 2022, all Scottish homes are required to have a carbon monoxide alarm in all rooms where there is a fixed combustion appliance (excluding an appliance used solely for cooking) or a flue. In rented properties, landlords are responsible for supplying the alarm. Carbon monoxide alarms must meet the relevant British Standards (EN 50291-1), and must have ‘a sealed battery for the duration of its lifespan’ to prevent tampering or the need for battery changes.
Smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are a mandatory requirement for all homes where a new fossil fuel appliance is installed, after a change to The Building Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2012 came into operation on 31 October 2012.
The Private Tenancies Act, which requires carbon monoxide alarms to be installed in privately rented homes and places a duty on landlords to repair them, received Royal Assent on 27 April 2022. 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.”
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 Specification range use intelligent wireless technology to 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 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.
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 and future proofs landlords against potential changes in legislation.