NUS supports killer gas safety scheme

January 17, 1997

A call to introduce safety certificates for gas appliances in all properties has been backed by the National Union of Students.

Nigel Griffiths, the Labour consumer affairs spokesperson, last week said a review of gas safety procedures would be made if the party won the election.

Douglas Trainer, the NUS president, said that he welcomed any attempt to stop the rising number of deaths from carbon monoxide poisoning. Only owners of rented dwellings are required to have all gas appliances and flues checked annually by an authorised engineer.

Peter Morgan, a spokesperson for the Health and Safety Commission, said tenants should ensure landlords met their legal obligations.

Nine students have died from carbon monoxide poisoning in the past four years. In November, Sonja Hyams of Keele University died and her four student housemates were taken to hospital after being poisoned by the odourless gas.

Two unnamed men were arrested last month by police in Stoke-on-Trent and interviewed about the incident. They have been released on bail while an investigation continues.

Stephanie Trotter, president of the Carbon Monoxide and Gas Safety Society, warned students not to block vents and make sure there was some ventilation into their house or flat.

She said students were at greater risk because they spent more time at home, particularly while studying for exams.

Meanwhile, a new law has come into force that requires all furniture and furnishings in rented properties to meet fire safety regulations.

On January 1, it became an offence for landlords not to comply with the Furniture and Furnishings Fire Safety Regulations, which were amended in 1993.

If furniture was supplied before March 1, 1993, the regulations apply only when new tenants move in.

Sofas, easy chairs, mattresses, sofa-beds, seat pads, cushions, pillows and garden furniture must now have fire-resistant filling, meet match-resistant tests and have information labels attached. Curtains, carpets and bedding are excluded.

But Nick Beacock, a spokesperson for the Campaign for Bedsit Rights, said many landlords have failed to meet the requirements because of a lack of awareness about the new law.

There were also problems in enforcing the regulation, he said. Inspectors from the trading standards department are responsible for determining if furniture and furnishings meet the required standards.

If tenants request an inspection, Mr Beacock said an inspector could seize items that do not comply and leave occupants without a mattress or sofa.

"Who will take up the case with the landlord advising them it is their duty to replace items if the property is let as furnished and realistically how long will this take?" he asked.

The NUS said the new regulations might not benefit students, who often do not look for accommodation until the last minute and might have to deal with unscrupulous landlords.

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