New oil-fired appliance regulations help keep Yukoners safe

Currie Dixon, MLA for Copperbelt NorthAs submitted to the Whitehorse Star on Friday, January 08, 2016
by Currie Dixon, Minister of Community Services

Here in the North, many of us use wood stoves or oil furnaces to heat our homes. It’s important to be aware of what we can do to use these appliances safely.

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a highly poisonous gas that you can’t see or smell. It’s created by appliances that burn any kind of fuel – oil, propane, wood and kerosene. At high levels, it can kill in minutes. According to Statistics Canada, there were 380 accidental deaths caused by CO in Canada between 2000 and 2009.

If fuel-burning appliances are incorrectly installed or vented, or have been poorly repaired or maintained, carbon monoxide can build up in your home.

Last month, the Yukon government passed new regulations as part of its ongoing work to help safeguard Yukoners from the risks of fire and CO poisoning in their homes.

Carbon monoxide detectors must now be installed in all residences that have a fuel-burning appliance or an attached garage. All homes must also have smoke detectors.

As well, permits to install or modify oil-fired appliances and fuel tanks will only be issued to certified mechanics or their supervised apprentices. A public registry of qualified oil-burner mechanics will be posted to the Community Services website, and is now available at both the Building Safety and Standards office and the City of Whitehorse building inspection office.

Building inspectors will also ensure that these devices are installed when conducting regular permit inspections of homes under construction.

In advance of these regulatory changes, the Yukon government created the Oil Burner Mechanic program at Yukon College to strengthen local capacity. Students who complete the program will be certified to service, install and modify oil-fired furnaces throughout the territory.

Over the past few years, the Yukon government has undertaken public awareness initiatives to improve home safety. The Seriously Simple and Be a Hero in your Home campaigns continue to educate Yukoners about fuel-burning appliance safety.

To date, our Fire Marshal’s Office has distributed more than 950 life safety alarms to help keep low-income Yukoners safe and raise awareness about carbon monoxide safety. In fact, just last year, one of those alarms was credited with saving the lives of two Dawson City residents – a reminder to us all to install alarms and ensure they are functioning properly.

Home safety is a shared responsibility. I ask all property owners, managers and tenants to ensure that fire and CO alarms are installed and working, that heating appliances are maintained and serviced, and that proper permits are in place.

I’d also like to remind Yukoners that CO doesn’t just come from furnaces and wood stoves. Never use a gas range or oven to heat your home. Never burn charcoal or use portable gas stoves indoors. And don’t use gas or diesel generators in your home or garage. Remember: if any fuel is burned, CO is released and must be adequately vented to the outdoors.

The Yukon government is leading the way in protecting residents with regulations that are among the most stringent in Canada. We are one of the first jurisdictions to have regulations in place that require carbon monoxide detectors not only in new buildings, but in all existing homes.

For more information about carbon monoxide safety go to seriouslysimple.ca or visit our Building Safety Branch either in person or online at www.community.gov.yk.ca/ps/building_safety.html.