Utility Week

UTILITY Week 16th October 2015

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12 | 16TH - 22ND OCTOBER 2015 | UTILITY WEEK Policy & Regulation Market view A s manager of the All-Party Parlia- mentary Carbon Monoxide Group (APPCOG), I have seen a number of changes in the sector in the past two years. Increasing numbers of carbon monoxide (CO) incidents appear to be happening with "non- traditional" fuels, appliances and settings – barbecues in tents, heaters on boats and with users of shisha pipes. Meanwhile, deaths and reported incidents involving domestic gas continue to fall. However, more must be done, especially in the private rented sector, even with the introduction of new require- ments in England earlier this month. The latest requirements to come into force in private rented housing in England require landlords to fit CO alarms in any room used as living accommodation where solid fuel is used. Also, the landlord must make sure the alarms are in working order at the start of each new tenancy. The requirements will be enforced by local authorities, which can impose a fine of up to £5,000 if a landlord fails to comply with a remedial notice. These regulations have been more than two years in the making. With enabling pow- ers to introduce regulation first brought into the Energy Act 2013 aer work by Baroness Finlay of Llandaff – a co-chair of the APP- COG – the Department for Communities and Local Government then published a Review of Property Conditions in the Private Rented Sector in February 2014. Despite input and evidence from the APPCOG and a number of others calling for CO alarms and better regu- lation across the private rented sector, the government announced in March this year that only "high-risk" rooms with solid fuel appliances would be covered. Many properties with solid fuel appli- ances will already require an alarm to be fitted under the 2010 changes to the build- ing regulations, where new or replacement solid fuel appliances are installed. Indeed, the House of Commons library briefing paper on the requirements even notes that "post 2010, solid fuel appliances already require CO detectors, so most landlords are out of scope" of these new requirements. Using registered installers and carbon monoxide alarms are crucial in the ever- growing private rented sector Appliances must be serviced regularly by competent persons, and carbon monoxide alarms that comply with the relevant Brit- ish (European) Standard BS EN 50291 are an important way to stay safe. This seems espe- cially pertinent to the private rented sector, with the latest Gas Safety Trust/DIDR carbon monoxide incident report noting that "the risk has historically remained fairly constant at around twice that in any other housing sector". Indeed, the Department for Commu- nities and Local Government impact assess- ment used to back up the new requirements uses Gas Safety Trust data to highlight the need for action in the private rented sector. The devolved governments across the UK have noted this, and now leave England lag- ging behind. From 1 December 2015, private landlords in Scotland will have to fit alarms in all rooms with a fuel-burning appliance, following current requirements (introduced in 2013) for new or existing heating appli- ances to be accompanied by an alarm. Since 2012, Northern Ireland has required an alarm to be fitted when new or replacement com- bustion appliances are installed in houses. Wales may well follow suit with new require- ments next year. The requirements, based on limited data from before 2008, ignore the remaining 92 per cent of private rented households that do not have solid fuel appliances but remain at risk. NHS statistics on CO poisoning sug- gest there are about 40 deaths and more than 4,000 hospitalisations a year, but it is feared that current statistics on CO poisoning under- estimate the number of incidents in England. A recent UCL study found that 6 per cent of homes inspected in London exhibited a "high risk" level of carbon monoxide poisoning. Research is ongoing, but even low-level poi- soning, which CO alarms can help prevent, is something to be aware of. Industry also has a major role to play in promoting CO safety. As well as the APP- COG, I also manage the Carbon Monoxide All Fuels Action Forum, a group of industry representatives, civil servants, researchers, medical professionals and campaigners. The gas distribution networks (GDNs) are major contributors to the forum, because of their knowledge, expertise and experience in CO safety campaigning. The GDNs are incentivised through an Ofgem framework to deliver on a number of consumer outcomes, including CO safety. All four of the GDNs have demonstrated inno- vative methods of raising awareness of CO issues among domestic consumers in recent years, including trials of "smart" CO alarms, campaigns in universities and schools, and the provision of free CO alarms to consumers particularly vulnerable to CO poisoning. GDNs are also picking up on the trend for incidents to occur during leisure activi- ties, and has projects looking at camping and caravanning, where there is a risk of CO emissions from bottled gas heating and cooking appliances, and the use of charcoal barbeques in poorly ventilated spaces. The gas networks and other industry partners should build on these programmes, with collaboration between such bodies and others especially important to ensure we can tackle CO nationally. Though regula- tory measures are not the only solution to improving CO safety, the APPCOG will con- tinue to campaign for better policy and gov- ernment action, while working with those groups, both industry and others, working effectively to tackle this silent killer. Dominic Gillan, manager, All-Party Parliamentary Carbon Monoxide Group Time to tackle the silent killer England lags behind the other nations in the UK when it comes to introducing legislation to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning in the private rented sector, says Dominic Gillan. Key points New requirements came into force in England on 1 October 2015. Private sector landlords must fit CO alarms in room used as living accommodation where solid fuel is used. Landlords must make sure alarms are in working order at the start of each tenancy.

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