Testing the system, smoke and CO alarms testing
As new Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Regulations 2015 come into effect, private landlords are now legally required to have working and regularly perform smoke and CO alarms testing in all rented properties.
On the face of it the task seems simple enough, with landlords or Environmental Health officers required to simply “pressing the test button” to ensure the alarms are working effectively. Although this may be an effective way of testing smoke alarms, research from Trading Standards has shown that it is not so simple when it comes to testing CO alarms.
The recent Trading Standards report found that 80% of alarms laboratory tested did not pass the British Standards test, while other research shows that as many as 16% of alarms do not work when they come out of the box.
When these figures are scaled across the UK it is estimated that as many as 30m CO alarms could be faulty. The issue has been further compounded as CO alarm manufacturers are selling alarms with 10 year+ warrantees although it is very unlikely the sensors will last that long.
In part the issue lies with the alarm’s test mechanism. Simply pressing the button, as outlined in the manufacturers’ instructions, is no guarantee of the alarm working effectively as in itself it only tests the battery, buzzer and circuitry in the alarm but does not test the CO sensor or prove that contaminated air is reaching the sensor via the casing vents.
To effectively test an alarm landlords and officers must ensure that the sensor is working and is able to detect gas. This is best managed using the Detectagas® CO alarm test kit that can be used with all domestic CO alarms. With a calibrated gas test in an aerosol can, the patented kit delivers a controlled amount of CO to test the sensor without risk of harm.
Smoke and CO alarms testing procedures
The trigger point for a European alarm is 300ppm within three minutes. The test response time is typically less than two minutes after which, on successful completion, the alarm is easily reset. There are 11 tests in one canister of Detectagas®, which cost the equivalent of less than £1.50 per test.
Each kit comes with 11 test record stickers that provide landlords with evidence that the alarms have been tested and are working. If found to be faulty, tamper-proof stickers are also available that notify residents that the alarm is faulty. These labels use extra strong glue and a very fragile material that means once it is used it is very hard to remove. This will prove ideal for inspectors as it will help ensure that alarms identified as faulty would be virtually impossible for them to be reused.
There are also three part Test Record Pads available to provide evidence that smoke and CO alarms testing has been carried out.
Carbon monoxide is invisible and deadly. Every year around 50 people die from accidental CO poisoning across the UK. Many of these tragedies are avoidable, firstly by making sure all appliances are properly installed and maintained and then crucially by fitting a working audible alarm that will immediately detect and alert in the event of a problem.
Landlords are required to check and provide evidence to local government officials that alarms are in working order at the start of all new tenancies and further checks can be done during regular property inspections. Those not abiding by the regulations face fines of up to £5,000, payable to the local authority.
The 28 day ‘grace period’ is now over so landlords need to be prepared for a potential visit from Environmental Health Officers. However, with the right support and test systems in place, compliance is simple and affordable enough.