The Importance of Combustion Safety

Wed, 2010-08-25 15:56

The reminder is prompted by the recent news of a civil lawsuit that was filed on August 11, 2010, stemming from a tragic carbon monoxide poisoning incident of a family of four in Aspen, CO, in November 2008.

According to the article in the Aspen Daily News, relatives of the victims killed by carbon monoxide poisoning in the Aspen-area home filed a civil lawsuit targeting 12 defendants, including three local men, the owner of the home, the manufacturer of the boiler that allegedly leaked the carbon monoxide, the county, and the county's community development department.

The lawsuit contains allegations against the 12 parties, including claims of negligence, manslaughter, product liability and civil rights violations.

The lawsuit in the Lofgren case claims five preventable causes that led to the poisoning, including disconnected exhaust piping and fresh-air intake vents, defective design of the boiler unit itself, improper installation of the ventilation system, and the absence of carbon monoxide detectors in the house.

The Building Performance Institute (BPI), an ANSI-accredited national standards-setting organization for home performance, emphasizes "safety and risk reduction as fundamentals that must be practiced on every job," said David Hepinstall, chairman of the BPI Board of Directors. "We view these key steps not as 'best practices' but rather as 'must practices' that are imperative for protecting occupant health, reducing liability risk for Accredited Contractors and program managers, and guarding the reputation and growth of the home performance and weatherization industry as a whole. We remind each and every one of our stakeholders to never relax their efforts when it comes to safety."

"Our hearts go out to the Lofgrens' family and friends, because carbon monoxide poisoning deaths can be and should be prevented. Examples like these are the precise reason why we have standards and why BPI Accredited Contractors and their Certified Professionals must conform to those standards. Anything less can result in tragedy for families and adverse consequences for contractors, manufacturers, program managers and anyone and everyone connected with the project, however distantly," said Larry Zarker, CEO of BPI.

"This is also why we add a double layer of protection with our Quality Assurance Program on the work of BPI Accredited Contractors. By verifying that the work conforms to our standards, including all safety tests, we greatly reduce the risk of horrific things happening. Quality assurance helps protect occupants from real danger and helps protect contractors from liability. It also provides a marketable point of differentiation by allowing BPI Accredited Contractors and the incentive program managers who specify them to offer their customers increased peace of mind," he added.

BPI national standards include combustion safety and carbon monoxide protection provisions that must be followed whenever heating systems or the building envelope are altered, including:

  • A preliminary and post-installation safety inspection of all combustion appliances
  • Carbon monoxide (CO) measurement at each appliance
  • Draft measurement and spillage evaluation for atmospherically vented appliances
  • Worst-case negative pressure measurement for each combustion appliance zone (CAZ)

To BPI's knowledge, none of the individuals or companies involved in the current civil or previous criminal cases were in any way connected with the BPI organization at the time of the Lofgren family's deaths.

To learn more about combustion safety, become a certified BPI Building Analyst and learn how to diagnose health and safety issues in a home.