Northern Ireland is setting the precedent for the rest of the UK to follow after new regulations introduced on 31 October made it a legal requirement for carbon monoxide (CO) alarms to be fitted in all homes where a new or replacement appliance, which is not used solely for cooking, is installed.
The Scottish government have been quick to follow suit and are currently consulting on the introduction of similar proposals, whilst the All-Party Parliamentary Carbon Monoxide Group (APPCOG) is creating as much noise as possible in a bid to convince the government in Westminster and the Welsh Assembly to revisit the outdated stance they have taken on the mandatory installation of CO alarms.
Currently homes in England and Wales are only legally required to fit carbon monoxide alarms if new or replacement appliances installed in their homes are powered by solid fuel, although industry figures do not think this is enough, and for good reason.
Recent research released by Energy UK shows there as many as 35 million people in the UK who are still at risk from carbon monoxide poisoning. Despite a good amount of publicity and work to increase awareness of the dangers of CO poisoning, many people still mistakenly believe their smoke alarm will detect the presence of carbon monoxide.
Despite this progress, some industry figures still believe the compulsory installation of carbon monoxide alarms is not enough, and the only way to remove the risk is to prevent CO from being produced, rather than merely detecting when it is. James Murray from the Gas Safe Register explains: “If we could ensure everyone has their safety appliances checked every year, more people would be safe from carbon monoxide. CO alarms are only a second line of defence, but are vital to alerting you of the gas’ presence.”
One thing is for sure: CO alarms alone are not the answer. As is all too often the case with smoke alarms, they are regularly installed and forgotten about, with homeowners believing themselves to be safe from fire thereafter, without conducting any maintenance checks to ensure batteries are live and sensors are still working.
Any progress on this issue is certainly welcomed, and for now, making the installation of carbon monoxide alarms compulsory in every UK home is certainly a good start. Watch this space...