A simple guide to Carbon Monoxide (CO)

What is it?

You can't see it, you can't smell it, you can't taste it, it has no colour and yet it can be deadly!

Carbon monoxide is naturally produced by carbon based fuels such as gas, oil, coal and wood. These fuels need an effective flue to carry this poisonous gas to the outside atmosphere. In addition, these fuels need a constant supply of fresh air to burn efficiently and safely. Failure to provide an adequate flue can result in this poisonous gas spilling back in to the living areas, and cause illness or even fatalities. Figures show around 30 people each year die of CO poisoning. In reality, the RLA believe that many more die of these symptoms which are not readily recognised by the medical profession.

In much the same way as we need to have our cars serviced each year to ensure they operate safely and efficiently, the same common sense rules apply to gas central heating boilers. It is now a legal requirement for a landlord to ensure these boilers and indeed all gas appliances are working in a safe manner, by having them safety checked annually by a qualified gas engineer. Heavy fines can be imposed by The Health & Safety Executive if landlords fail to have these annual safety checks completed by a GAS SAFE registered engineer. Do check on your gas engineer's registration as it is illegal for anyone other than a qualified gas engineer to work on a gas burning appliance. A landlord can also be held liable for prosecution and fines in these circumstances. Landlords may also be prevented from evicting a problem tenant if they do not get a gas safety certificate.

THE WARNING SIGNS

  • Look for gas flames burning a shade of orange instead of blue,
  • Look for sooty or black stains on appliances or on the wall immediately above the appliance,
  • Look for your tenants suffering prolonged flu like symptoms.

NB: Even if you do not experience any of the problems above, the RLA recommend that you arrange an Annual Gas Safety Check on the property.

These warning signs must not be ignored. Your tenant should be advised not to use the gas appliance and your gas engineer should be asked to visit as soon as possible.

Landlords are legally required to place a CO alarm in every room with a solid fuel source. This means wood fires, coal fires, etc but not gas or liquid fuels like oil. If the landlord provides a detector it must be in full working order. If it is not then the landlord would be liable for any Gas Safety issues.

As CO is lighter/less dense than air, when CO leaks into a room it fills the room from the ceiling down. It naturally follows the CO detector should be installed above head height, typically above a door frame.

For further information on CO alarms please see our detailed guide.

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Martin Co
Six Hills House
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