Law on CO Alarms
The current legislation with regard to the installation of carbon monoxide alarms.
By Stephanie Trotter checked by Leigh Greenham of CoGDEM (apart from the part about Scotland which was added in early May 2019).
The legislation has been changed from the 1st February 2019 see https://www.gov.scot/publications/fire-and-smoke-alarms-in-scottish-homes/
The regulations come into force in February 2021 so there is a two year implementation period, although landlords are encouraged to comply as soon as possible for the sake of safety.
It is fairly self explanatory and easy to understand.
- All homes are covered at the property owner’s expense.
- CO alarms to be fitted where there is a carbon fuelled appliance (boilers, fires, including open fires, heaters and stoves burning fuel such as gas, oil, wood, coal etc.) or a flue.
- All CO alarms should be either ceiling or wall mounted (with further instructions on height etc.) and should comply with EN 50291.
- Battery operated CO alarms can be fitted provided they are powered by a battery designed to operate for the working life of the detector. Hard wired mains operated CO alarms can be used provided they are fitted with a sensor failure warning device.
For further details and the legislation see:-
We do hope this legislation will extend to the rest of the UK as soon as possible. It seems likely that it will be and especially as Policy Connect has just announced that Ofgem is allowing the Gas Distribution Networks £30 million (see Spark newsletter, May on the Policy Connect website and see source document https://www.ofgem.gov.uk/system/files/docs/2019/05/riio-2_sector_specific_methodology_decision_-_gd.pdf). Will there be any funding to train and equip First Call Operators from the gas emergency service to test gas appliances for CO as recommended by the HSC/E in 2000? Will there be any funding for a massive PR campaign to warn about the dangers of CO? Will there be any funding to collect, collate and publish the data in order to learn from each tragedy? Will there be any funding for organisations run by victims for the benefit of victims? Will there be any victim support? We do hope so but after nearly 25 years of asking for such things we rather doubt it but would love to be proved wrong!
In Northern Ireland where any combustion appliance is installed reasonable provision shall be made to detect and give warning of the presence of carbon monoxide gas at levels harmful to people.
The authority for this is that Technical Document L of the Building Regulations in Northern Ireland has been amended to cover protection against Carbon Monoxide. Regulation number 72 is the important one to remember. It says: “Where a combustion appliance is installed in a dwelling, reasonable provision shall be made to detect and give warning of the presence of carbon monoxide gas at levels harmful to people.” http://www.aico.co.uk/Northern-Ireland-Building-Regulations-Oct-2012.html
England and Wales
There is no legal requirement for either landlords or gas companies in England and Wales to install alarms where there are only gas appliances.
There is a duty for private landlords to fit a carbon monoxide alarm in a room with a solid fuel appliance in England and Wales. There is S. 150 of the Energy Act 2013 which is now in force see http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukdsi/2015/9780111133439/contents There is a duty for private landlords to fit a carbon monoxide alarm in a room with a solid fuel appliance in England and Wales (from the 1st October 2015).
In England and Wales there is also a duty under the Building Regulations when a solid fuel heating system is installed, such as a wood burning stove. The authority for this is that Communities and Local Government department changed part J of the building regulations for England and Wales in 2010. http://www.planningportal.gov.uk/uploads/br/BR_PDF_AD_J_2010_V2.pdf
Approved Document J
Combustion appliances and fuel storage systems.
Discharge of products of combustion.
Combustion appliances shall have adequate provision for the discharge of products of combustion to the outside air. Warning of release of carbon monoxide.
2.34 Where a new or replacement fixed solid fuel appliance is installed in a dwelling, a carbon monoxide alarm should be provided in the room where the appliance is located.
Where a fixed combustion appliance is provided, appropriate provision shall be made to detect and give warning of the release of carbon monoxide.
Landlords have a continuing duty to keep all gas appliances and their flues which they control in a safe condition and must also provide an annual gas safety certificate. The authority for this is The Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 Regulation 36.
However the National Landlords Association (NLA) and the Association of Registered Letting Agents (ARLA) are fully signed up to the CO message, and they recommend that their members do fit CO alarms (compliant with EN 50291) to their properties as best practice.
Criticism by Stephanie Trotter
- It’s quite a messy situation now and depends on where in the UK the person is.
- Under the Building Regs. England and Wales require a CO alarm only if there is a solid fuel appliances being installed. This will cover owner occupiers but will not be retrospectivee.
- Under the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm Regulations which came into force on the 1st October 2015, private landlords must install a CO alarm in every room with a solid fuel appliance.
The English Housing Survey at https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/406740/English_Housing_Survey_Headline_Report_2013-14.pdf This states at page 8 that In 2013-14 ‘19% (4.4 million) of households were renting privately’.
According to DCLG (received via Dominic Gillan of APPCOG) only 8.6% only of this 19% have solid fuel. It appears that there are 354,000 PRS properties with solid fuel, or 8.6% of the total.’)
CO-Gas Safety found that only 1.2% of its deaths in privately rented properties were the result of CO which originated from solid fuel appliances.
Whereas CO-Gas Safety found 6.2% of deaths in privately rented properties were the result of CO which originated from a gas powered appliance. Plus 2.06% of deaths in privately rented where the CO came from appliances powered by LPG.
Please note that the tenure which has the most deaths (owner occupiers 57%) is completely ignored in these Smoke and CO alarm regulations (though not in the Building Regs). Please also note that householders are not even made aware of the dangers of CO by the use of prime time TV warnings.
There is huge confusion between the landlord’s continuing duty to keep the gas appliances and flues he controls in a safe condition and the duty to undertake a gas safety check and supply a certificate to the tenant. Far better we think to amalgamate these duties.
4. Under the Building Regs. N. Ireland requires a CO alarm when any combustion appliance is installed.
5. Under the Building Regs Scotland requires a CO alarm in every space containing a fixed combustion appliance (excluding appliances used solely for cooking), and where a flue passes through high-risk accommodation, such as a bedroom or main living room. So any fixed appliance (not barbecue or portable heater) except a cooker.
Comment on criticism above
There is some sense in this because solid fuel more risky per user than gas according to our data. Please note we have no regular funding to continue our data which we have been compiling since 1995. However, our data almost certainly is only the tip of an iceberg because CO is hardly ever tested for therefore is not often found. Even in cases of unexplained death the bodies are not tested for (3,500 unexplained deaths occur in the UK between the ages of 16 and 64 CO – New Scientist December 2004).
Will only protect a tiny number of properties and people.
This is quite sensible if you are doing this through Building Regs, which in itself is not ideal because it’ll take decades to protect everyone.
Unfortunate because cookers are often the cause of poisoning but the part about CO alarms in high risk rooms with flues running through them is quite good.
The above about the law on CO alarms was written by Stephanie Trotter but checked by Leigh Greenham of CoGDEM (trade association for CO alarms and Leigh is very knowledgeable – he suggested the parts I’ve added in italics).