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Carbon Monoxide Alarms Now Mandatory

Wednesday, 17 April 2019

Carbon Monoxide Alarms Now Mandatory

From the start of April 2019 at least one carbon monoxide (CO) alarm is now a mandatory requirement on nearly all private and non-private boats for cruising certain waterways in the UK.

The new BSS requirements apply to boats with accommodation spaces i.e. areas within a boat surrounded by permanent boat structure and where carbon monoxide gas may accumulate. BSS Certifications will not be issued to boats without alarms. 

Although the need for CO alarms is being introduced to help protect boat owners from sources of the toxic gas from neighbouring boats, the alarms are also expected to prevent death or injury to crew members from their own boat engines or appliances.

There are four new check items in the BSS examination:

  1. The provision of alarms in suitable numbers – this check ensures everyone on board can hear the alarm if it activates
  2. An advice check for private boats, promoting a CO alarm in the same space as a solid fuel stove – stoves can present a specific risk if flue gases enter the cabin
  3. The requirement for CO alarms to be placed in open view, be of a certified quality and have a test function button
  4. The requirement for CO alarms to be in good and working condition, showing no signs of damage, being within any visible expiry dates and passing the function test using the test button

The BSS has published a new handout as an essential guide to all the new requirements and background information. It covers what is required and how the checks will be carried out by BSS examiners and how the alarms can keep crew members safe, including:

CO alarm makers guidance about where to place a CO alarm to achieve best protection

What type of CO alarm to buy

What to do if a CO alarm goes off

What to do if carbon monoxide poisoning is suspected

Copies of the essential guide will be distributed by BSS Examiners. It is also available for marinas and boat clubs to distribute. It can also be viewed or downloaded from www.boatsafetyscheme.org

Stuart Carruthers, RYA Cruising Manager, says: “The message is simple: carbon monoxide kills and an alarm could save your life. But the first line of defence is to know and understand the dangers and sources of carbon monoxide. It’s both colourless and odourless, hence the silent killer tag, and can kill quickly if inhaled in high concentrations.

At lower levels of CO as it begins to take effect, the symptoms of poisoning are similar to flu or food poisoning, and include headaches, nausea and dizziness.”

CO detectors are commonplace in homes, but less so on boats despite them being the perfect place for the poisonous gas to build up. The RYA recommends fitting an alarm that is certified to the British Standard as suitable for use when camping and/or in recreational vehicles such as boats and caravans, which is known as BS EN50291-2:2010.


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