Risk Management - Carbon Monoxide Poisoning (Hotel).
RISK MANAGEMENT: CARBON MONOXIDE: THE SILENT KILLER
UNDERSTANDING THE RISKS
Carbon monoxide poisoning in the hospitality industry made the headlines when three guests died over a period of multiple weeks at a US hotel. This colorless, tasteless, and mostly odorless gas is known as the silent killer, but by simply installing and maintaining CO detectors, situations like these can be avoided. In this particular hotel case, there was a carbon monoxide leak in a swimming pool heating system that was below the guests’ rooms.
The incident occurred in 2013, and a plea agreement was reached in 2016 to dissolve the company that owned the hotel and, in turn, drop the criminal charges against one of its executives. But while the criminal phase ended, the victims’ families continued to pursue civil litigation related to the deaths and push for stricter rules nationwide for carbon monoxide detectors in hotels.
YOUR LEGAL REQUIREMENTS
Not all states have enacted laws requiring hotels to install COdetectors, but it’s a no-brainer that every establishment should follow. Tragic outcomes like these loss of lives illustrate how serious a leak can be—and hotel owners and managers have a duty to provide high-level care to guests. To ensure the highest standards of safety and avoid costly lawsuits that damage a business’s reputation, a COdetector, with annual maintenance, goes a long way.
HOW TO SAFEGUARD YOUR COMPANY
Common hotel systems that can produce carbon monoxide include pool heaters, fuel-burning furnaces, boilers, fireplaces, emergency generators, and in-suite kitchens with gas stoves. If exhaust pipes attached to these devices are damaged in any way, such as bent or punctured, carbon monoxide can build up, causing a devastating leak in adjacent areas.
Enacting sound policies and procedures to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning is the first step in making sure your environment is safe.
TIPS: PREVENTING CO LEAKS
1.Install carbon monoxide alarms in all locations near a device that could potentially produce carbon monoxide.
2.Install correctly! Put carbon monoxide detectors near the ceiling. Eye level or above—but not within six inches of the ceiling.
3.At least annually, maintain and monitor the potential sources of carbon monoxide.
4.To get an unbiased opinion about your hotel’s needs, solicit third-party inspectors, such as a local fire department to audit your entire property.
5.Budget in this minor, but life-saving, expense. A midsize hotel may have three to five systems that could be potential sources for CO. Installing alarms will be a nominal fee, typically less than $1,000.
6.Legislation is always changing. Check with state hotel associations about codes nationwide.
7.Schedule inspections after earthquakes, hurricanes, or even massive snowstorms.
8.Make sure to check references and ensure that hired contractors have the proper permits before starting construction projects. It’s also important for municipalities to inspect the project and sign off on it after completion. This will help hoteliers avoid liability if a system is not installed properly.
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