A carbon monoxide detector could have prevented the tragic death in February 2014 of Steven Nelson, an employee at Legal Seafoods at the Walt Whitman Shops in Huntington Station, who fell victim to poisonous fumes from a malfunctioning water heater pipe at the restaurant.  The tragedy prompted a recent amendment to the New York State Executive Law to require the Uniform Fire Prevention and Building Code to address carbon monoxide detection in commercial buildings.  The Uniform Code now requires the installation of carbon monoxide detectors in all restaurant and commercial properties in the state.   Previously, detectors were required in one- and two-family homes, condominiums, co-ops, and multiple dwelling units, but restaurants and commercial buildings were excluded.

The law applies to “existing commercial buildings,” which includes commercial buildings constructed prior to December 31, 2015.  A detection device is mandated in any commercial building that (i) contains any carbon monoxide source (including a garage), and/or (ii) is attached to a garage, and/or (iii) is attached to any other motor-vehicle-related occupancy.  The law requires a detection device in each story of a building or “detection zone” with the presence of a carbon monoxide source.  Unlike in the residential setting, a combination smoke alarm/carbon monoxide detector will not satisfy the new requirement for commercial buildings.  The law contains heightened compliance requirements for new construction after December 31, 2015, including hard-wiring carbon monoxide detection as part of the building’s fire monitoring system.

The “transition period” to comply with the new law runs through June 27, 2016.  However, commercial building owners are encouraged to comply with the new law—which will protect employees, customers, and everyone else who enters a commercial space—as soon as practicable.  The goal of the new law is to protect employees against potential hazards.  Employers who lease commercial space should consult with their landlords and review their leases to facilitate the installation of the carbon monoxide detectors to comply with the law.  Please contact us with any questions or concerns about compliance with this critical safety measure.