As gas engineers we are ideally placed to be part of the fight against carbon monoxide poisoning by installing a carbon monoxide (CO) alarm. CO alarms play a vital part in combatting this issue but it needs to go hand in hand with raising awareness. The new regulations regarding CO alarms state that all private lets must now be fitted with a CO alarm in any room that burns solid fuel but they do not require CO alarms to be fitted in rooms with gas or oil appliances.
Despite this legislation and the threat of a £5 000 penalty for non-compliance, it is estimated that less than 70% of rental properties have these alarms fitted. As gas engineers we are in the perfect position to see if these alarms are fitted and in working order when doing work for private landlords and if they aren’t we are there to raise awareness, educate and get the message across to those landlords that they are now in breach of this legislation by not installing a CO alarm.
This legislation only covers the private rental market however and this is an issue that should be addressed by any home owner; about 84% of homes are now fitted with smoke alarms but only around 15% have working CO alarms fitted*. As we go into people’s homes and businesses we are in a position to explain about the dangers of CO poisoning to our customers who may not be aware of the signs and symptoms of poisoning which include:
In high concentration CO can kill in minutes but exposure to even small doses can leave people with permanent health issues.Carbon Monoxide is odourless and colourless and incidents of poisoning occur due to the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels. This could be from a number of sources and for a number of reasons. Problems in the home typically come from appliances that have been poorly installed or not maintained and checked regularly. It could also come from a broken appliance or a blocked chimney or flue. There are digital alarms available that will give a reading of even low-level CO which will alert people to problems that may need addressing in the house before they become serious problems. The advice that is being given is to use an audible alarm because of the odourless nature Carbon Monoxide, you may not be aware of a problem before it’s too late.
As gas engineers we should make it part of our duty of care to all of our customers, especially those who may be more vulnerable, to help to explain these dangers and try to make as many homes as safe as possible by encouraging them to have a CO alarm installed. While an alarm is a great starting point the conversation also needs to include the importance of having all gas appliances checked yearly and how dangerous it is for homeowners to attempt any repairs themselves.
The HSE strongly recommends the use of audible carbon monoxide (CO) alarms as an important precaution but they must not be regarded as a substitute for proper installation and maintenance of gas appliances by a Gas Safe Registered engineer.
*Department for Communities and Local Government, the Council for Gas Detection and Environmental Monitoring