Carbon monoxide monitors to be required by law

Ceri Ross died of carbon monoxide poisoning after material from repair work blocked 80 per cent of her chimney. Picture: contributed
Ceri Ross died of carbon monoxide poisoning after material from repair work blocked 80 per cent of her chimney. Picture: contributed
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ALARMS alerting home owners to the potentially-deadly carbon monoxide gas will have to be fitted in households across the Lothians under new laws.

The monitors will need to be installed from October 1 whenever new or replacement heaters, boilers, fires and stoves are put into houses, hotels, care homes and guest houses.

Both home owners and gas engineers will be responsible for sticking to the new laws, which are being introduced under a change to building regulations.

The life-saving alarms cost about £15. Building firms will have to make sure they are installed in new-build properties or face a fine.

An average of 50 people die in Britain each year from carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. The “silent killer” also causes about 4000 accident and emergency admissions.

Ceri Ross, 60, from Gifford in East Lothian, died of CO poisoning in October 2009 after material dislodged during repair work at her Walden Terrace home blocked 80 per cent of her chimney.

The blind woman collapsed as a result of a build-up of the gas in her living room. She was the only one in the house at the time.

A roofing contractor whose botched repair work led to Ms Ross’ death was fined £15,000 at Haddington Sheriff Court in May last year.

John Riva, 49, of Quarryford Cottages, near Longyester, had pleaded guilty to failing to guarantee Mrs Ross and her family were not exposed to health and safety risks as part of his duties.

In a sentencing statement, Sheriff Peter Braid told Riva the offence deserved a “significant fine both by way of retribution and to bring home to others the importance of health and safety issues”.

Ms Ross’ daughter, Helen, 26, said the tragedy highlighted the importance of having CO alarms in homes heated by solid fuel such as coal. She had previously said she held no grudges against the builders.

CO is often known as the silent killer because it cannot be seen, smelled or tasted. The gas reduces the blood’s ability to carry oxygen. It can lead to brain damage among those who survive.

Until now, there have been no requirements within Scottish building regulations for carbon monoxide detectors to be installed in any private properties.

Some local authorities require private landlords to have the alarms fitted.

Planning Minister Derek Mackay said that the legislation was being brought in to 
prevent more needless deaths. He said: “Not a year goes by where there isn’t an avoidable death in Scotland from carbon monoxide poisoning caused by faulty heating appliances in buildings.

“There are also a considerable number of incidents where people are treated in hospital for the effects of carbon monoxide poisoning.”

Faulty central heating systems, gas appliances and fires can lead to CO poisoning.

Shelter Scotland director Graeme Brown said the move would improve the safety of rented properties.