Carbon Monoxide – The Dangers and Your Obligations

By Janne Hellsten from Helsinki, Finland (FIRE! Uploaded by Kimse) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Janne Hellsten , via Wikimedia Commons [CC-BY-2.0]

I am sure you are all aware of the recent coverage of the Thomas Cook court case regarding the death nine years ago of two small children whilst on holiday in their apartment due to carbon monoxide poisoning.

As a responsible Landlord it is your duty to ensure you have taken all measures to comply with the legislation in place to protect those customers using the property you are offering for a commercial rent and I hope in this article to highlight the dangers and your obligations with regards to carbon monoxide protection in your holiday home. 

Carbon Monoxide poisoning is estimated to kill between 30-50 people a year in the UK with many more being susceptible to injury or illness unknowingly from inhaling this colourless and odourless gas.

Installing a carbon monoxide detector, and ensuring it is in the right place, will alert your customers to the presence of carbon monoxide, helping to keep them safe in your holiday home.

 

What is carbon monoxide – why is it a problem?

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colourless, odourless, tasteless, poisonous gas produced by incomplete burning of carbon-based fuels, including gas, oil, wood and coal. Carbon-based fuels are safe to use, however, it is only when the fuel does not burn properly that excess carbon monoxide is produced, which is poisonous. When carbon monoxide enters the body, it prevents the blood from bringing oxygen to cells, tissues, and organs.

 

How do I know if I am at risk from carbon monoxide?

Although carbon monoxide (CO) is a colourless, odourless and tasteless gas, there are some tell-tale signs that indicate incomplete combustion is occurring, resulting in the production of CO:

  • Yellow or orange rather than blue flames (apart from fuel effect fires or flueless appliances which display this colour flame)
  • Soot or yellow/brown staining around or on appliances
  • Pilot lights that frequently blow out
  • Increased condensation inside windows

 

What should I do if I think my appliance is spilling carbon monoxide?

  • Switch off the appliance and do not reuse until remedial action has been taken
  • Call Gas Emergency Freephone Number 0800 111 999
  • Open all doors and windows to ventilate the room – do not sleep in it
  • Visit your GP urgently and tell him/her that you believe your symptoms may be related to carbon monoxide poisoning and request either a blood and/or breath sample
  • Contact a Gas Safe Registered engineer to make repairs

 

What preventative measures can I take?

  • Ensure that any work carried out in relation to gas appliances is to be undertaken by a Gas Safe Registered engineer, competent in that area of work.
  • For all gas appliances you have a legal responsibility to carry out an annual gas safety check and maintain gas appliances. A copy of the completed gas safety check certificate must be left in the property.
  • Always make sure there is enough fresh air in the room containing your gas appliance. If you have a chimney or a flue, ensure it is not blocked up and also ensure that vents are not covered.
  • If you plan to install a gas fire in a bedroom, use a Gas Safe Registered engineer; do not use unflued appliances like paraffin heaters and cabinet heaters.
  • Get your chimney swept from top to bottom at least once a year by a qualified sweep.
  • If you have appliances that use other fossil fuels, make sure they are serviced and maintained by a competent person.
  • Buy a Carbon Monoxide detector.

 

How to buy a Carbon Monoxide detector

An audible carbon monoxide alarm is a good way to ensure your customer is immediately alerted to any carbon monoxide in your holiday home.

Carbon monoxide detectors are widely available from DIY stores, usually found with the smoke alarms, from supermarkets, or through your energy supplier.

Prices for carbon monoxide alarms from brands including Kidde, FireAngel, Honeywell and Ei Electronics range between £15 and £35.

Your carbon monoxide detector should:

  • Have an audible alarm – rather just than a ‘colour change’ or ‘back spot’ indicator tool – which will sound an alarm when it detects CO
  • Have a British Standard EN 50291 mark – also written as BSEN 50291 or shown with the CE mark
  • Have a British or European Kitemark, Loss Prevention Certification Board (LPCB) or equivalent testing approval mark.

 

Fitting your carbon monoxide detector

Setting up and installing your carbon monoxide detector should be a straightforward DIY task – simply follow the detector’s instructions. You should also:

  • Install a carbon monoxide detector in every room containing a fuel-burning appliance.
  • Always read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions on siting, testing, servicing and replacing the alarm. Pay particular attention to the unit’s battery life and when it will need replacing.
  • Position the alarm at head height (your breathing level), but it doesn’t need to be fixed to a wall (a shelf is often suitable). The alarm should be at least 15cm from the ceiling.
  • Place the alarm at least a metre away from boilers, fires, cookers or heaters, but ideally in the same room as the appliance – though not directly above a source of heat or steam.
  • Test your alarm regularly using the test button, and replace batteries annually or when the low battery signal sounds.

If you would like somebody to supply and fit detectors for you we are happy to recommend, Golant Fire & Security, they can be contacted by phone on 01726 861 116, by email info@gfsfire.co.uk or by visiting their website www.gfsfire.co.uk.