Friday, February 12, 2016

Business owners: Are you ready for the CO detector mandate?

It’s not often that you’ll find this columnist being in agreement with new laws and regulations (we already have more than enough of them), but there is one in play right now that I can wholly agree with.

That would be Part 1228.4 of Title 19 of the New York Codes, Rules, and Regulations. Simply put, it mandates the use of carbon monoxide detectors in all commercial buildings. Old standards applied only to new builds, which severely limited the point of the law, that being the guarantee of public safety.

Carbon monoxide (CO) is known as the “silent killer” as it is an odorless, colorless gas produced by the incomplete combustion of any fossil fuel or wood. If you breathe it in at levels as low as 35 parts per million, you will be subjected to headaches. If above 800 parts per million (which is a small amount), you’ll be suffering from flu-like symptoms such as headaches and lethargy. Continued and higher exposure will lead to insensibility, convulsions, respiratory arrest, and death, all of which can occur in a rather short period of time. It is such a deadly and efficient killer that the Nazis used CO alone to kill 750,000 Jews during the Holocaust.

More than 400 Americans die from accidental exposure to CO every year, while 20,000 more end up in emergency rooms to combat CO poisoning. Some of my dear friends lost their loved ones to CO over 20 years ago. It’s tragedies like that that led to the encouraged – and ultimately mandated -- use of CO detectors in all residences. The law was finally expanded to commercial properties after years of proven success of CO detectors in homes saving lives.  

Unlike homes which don’t really get inspections from governments to verify compliance, businesses do receive regular inspections from any number of entities such as code enforcers, OSHA, and the Departments of Health and Labor who will all enforce the new rule which became law in June of last year, but was granted an unusually-long transition period that ends on June 27th of this year. Business owners can expect inspectors to look at the presence or CO detectors as being the “low-hanging fruit” in their governmental reviews later this year and into the future.

Property managers shouldn’t look at that as a threat to their livelihood. It’s a good law. And, it’s a practice that should be used with or without the existence of a law. People spend a lot of time (8 to 10 hours a day) in hospitals, schools, stores, factories, garages, and other occupied facilities which, at this latitude, use incredible amounts of fossil fuels to heat those premises. They can get sickened by and succumb to CO in the workplace just as easily as they can in the home.

There are some nuances of the law that you should be aware of: All new builds have to have the detectors hardwired into the electrical supply and, at the same time, have a backup battery in use; existing buildings or those without electrical power can use battery-powered detectors but they have to have 10-year batteries; they are required on every story and primary work/occupancy area, not just adjacent to the furnace or heater;  and, for the most part, you are not allowed to use combination smoke and CO detectors.

If you haven’t prepared your commercial property for this law, do it. Don’t wait till June to meet the standards, either. Now is the time when heaters are running non-stop…now is the time when disasters can and do happen.

 From the 15 February 2016 Greater Niagara Newspapers

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