Product safety

Disclaimer:  Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in the Pink Book of Legislation, we regret that we cannot be responsible for any errors. This guide is not intended to be a definitive statement of the law in England. If you require precise or detailed information on the legislation mentioned in this guide, or on the legal implications for you in particular, you should consult a professional legal adviser.

Key facts

  • Operators of all domestic, residential and sleeping accommodation have a responsibility for ensuring that gas appliances and flues in the premises are safely maintained and checked. All safety checks must be carried out by a Gas Safe registered engineer.
  • Electrical equipment safety regulations require that all electrical equipment supplied 'in the course of business' is safe. There is no specific requirement for annual maintenance, but to ensure electrical equipment remains safe, you are strongly advised to have it checked and serviced regularly by a registered electrician.
  • The general product safety regulations apply if you provide self-catering accommodation. The essential requirements are to ensure that you supply only safe products to your guests, and to ensure that a product remains safe throughout its period of use. 

 

Gas safety

Installing and maintaining gas appliances

Each year there are fatalities from carbon monoxide poisoning caused by poorly installed or badly maintained gas appliances and flues as well as complaints from guests about the safety of gas appliances provided in their accommodation premises. The Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 are there to protect you and your guests.

They supplement any responsibilities you may have under the Health and Safety at Work, etc Act 1974 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.

 

Registration schemes for gas engineers

The CORGI registration scheme for gas engineers was ended on 1 April 2009 and has been replaced by the Gas Safe registration scheme. It is illegal for any engineer to undertake work under the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 unless they are Gas Safe registered.

 

What do the gas safety regulations cover?

  • The regulations specifically deal with the installation, maintenance and use of gas appliances and fittings and flues in domestic, residential and commercial premises.
  • The regulations place duties on a wide range of people, including gas suppliers and those installing and working on gas equipment.
  • The regulations include extensive duties on accommodation providers for ensuring appliances and flues in the premises they let are safely maintained and checked.

 

What types of premises are affected?

The premises affected include all domestic, residential and sleeping accommodation. This includes:

  • self-catering properties
  • hotels
  • hostels
  • guesthouses
  • bed and breakfasts
  • permanently sited caravans
  • touring caravans and inland waterway boats hired out in the course of business
  • privately owned inland waterway boats used privately for domestic or residential purposes
  • commercial installations generally.

 

What are my main duties?

Duties as an accommodation provider

You are required to:

  • ensure all gas fittings and flues are maintained in a safe condition
  • ensure an annual safety check is carried out on each gas appliance/flue by a Gas Safe registered engineer (see Registration schemes for gas engineers above for more details)
  • keep a written record of the inspection for two years, containing information such as the following:
    • the date of check
    • location and details of the appliance/flue
    • any defects found and action taken
    • a confirmation that the check was made in accordance with the regulations.
  • issue a copy of the record to any person staying for more than 28 days, or if the premises is let for 28 days or less, display a copy of the record prominently in the premises.

 

Duties as an employer

You have a duty to ensure that gas appliances under your control are 'maintained in a safe condition so as to prevent injury to any person'. This includes staff or people that you contract to work on your premises (e.g. cleaners).

 

Other important provisions

Other important provisions include the following:

  • anyone carrying out work on gas appliances or fittings not as part of their business (e.g. as a favour to you) must still be competent (do-it-yourself work can be dangerous and illegal)
    • Note: employers can only use Gas Safe engineers (see Registration schemes for gas engineers below for more details).
  • you must not use any gas appliance or fitting you know or suspect to be unsafe
  • with the exception of 'room-sealed' appliances, there are restrictions on the installation of gas appliances in sleeping areas fitted after 1 January 1996.
  • it is illegal to install instantaneous water heaters that are not room-sealed or fitted with a safety device which automatically turns off the gas supply before a dangerous level of poisonous fumes builds up.

 

Additional precautions

The Health and Safety Executive highlights additional precautions:

  • whenever draught exclusion, double glazing or a conservatory extension is fitted to a room containing a gas appliance, the appliance should subsequently be checked for safety 
  • never block or obstruct any fixed ventilation grilles or air bricks
  • never block or cover outside flues.

 

While there is no legal requirement to install a carbon monoxide detector, their use is now a requirement of the VisitEngland accommodation grading scheme and is considered best practice for properties which have a gas supply.

 

Your liabilities and your agent's

IMPORTANT: If you use an agent to manage your properties (e.g. self-catering accommodation), you should ensure that the management contract specifies who is responsible for the maintenance of gas appliances and for keeping records to indicate when this maintenance has been carried out.

The liability of purely marketing and booking agencies (rather than managing agencies) under these regulations is unclear. Some agencies therefore seek to exclude themselves from liability by inserting into their contracts with owners a clause which commits those owners to ensuring that their property complies at all times with the gas safety requirements.

Electrical equipment

What do the regulations cover?

The Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1994 require, among other things, that all electrical equipment supplied 'in the course of business' is safe. This applies equally to new and second-hand equipment.

 

Do the regulations apply to me?

The regulations apply to everyone who supplies electrical equipment in the course of their business, regardless of whether or not their business is actually the supply of electrical equipment. The regulations are particularly relevant to self-catering accommodation, as equipment in these premises may not be covered by the Electricity at Work Regulations (see the 'Hazards in the workplace' section for more details).

 

What does safe mean?

For electrical equipment to be regarded as safe, there should be no risk (or only a minimal risk) that the equipment will in any way cause death or injury to any person or domestic animal, or cause damage to property.

If you are buying any new electrical equipment in the UK, it should be 'safe' as manufacturers and suppliers are bound by the same regulations. It should also carry a CE marking (indicating that the manufacturer believes the product complies with all relevant European Directives and safety standards). If you are buying second-hand electrical equipment from a professional dealer (or auction house) it should likewise be 'safe', although it does not have to carry a CE marking.

 

Do I need to maintain electrical equipment?

Although these regulations require electrical equipment to be safe, unlike for gas appliances there is no specific requirement for annual maintenance. However, to be sure that the electrical equipment in your accommodation remains safe, you are strongly advised to have it checked and serviced regularly by a registered electrician.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) provide a free guidance publication Electrical Safety and You which you can download from their website. This provides useful information about checking electrical equipment.

  • Note: letting agents can also be held responsible for the safety of the electrical equipment in accommodation they let, depending on the terms of their agreements with property owners. Check your agreement and speak with your agent to ensure you both understand who is responsible for the safety of electrical products.

 

General product safety

The General Product Safety Regulations 2005 are aimed at making sure that all goods supplied to consumers (new or second-hand) are safe.

The regulations cover products made available to consumers for their use in the course of a delivery of a service (e.g. the provision of a hairdryer in a hotel room or self-catering cottage for the guest’s own use).

Where a product is already subject to other existing regulations then those regulations will still apply to that product. The General Product Safety Regulations will also apply where they go further than the existing regulations.

 

Do the regulations apply to me?

Yes: if you are providing serviced or self-catering accommodation.

  • Note: letting agents can be held responsible for product safety in self-catering accommodation, depending on the terms of their agreement with the property owners.

 

How do I comply with the regulations?

The essential requirements are to ensure that you supply only safe products to your guests, and take steps (where appropriate) to help ensure that a product remains safe throughout its period of use.

A safe product is defined as 'any product which under normal or reasonably foreseeable conditions of use presents no risk or only the minimum risk compatible with the product’s use and which is consistent with a high level of protection for consumers'.

You are required to provide guests with all relevant information, warnings, and instructions for the safe operation and use of products. You are also required to keep yourself informed about possible risks.

 

General precautions

The regulations require no formal testing of products and, as you can see from the examples below, it is really just a matter of common sense and routine checking.

  • if instructions are needed to operate a piece of household equipment, make sure that they are provided.
  • if a piece of equipment provided is damaged, repair it, e.g. an ironing board with loose or fragile legs.
  • if an item of furniture or equipment can be damaged and made dangerous by children playing with it, make sure your guests know this.

 

Requirements as a 'distributor' of products

As a 'distributor' of products, you are also required, 'within the limits of your activity', to participate in monitoring the safety of products that you supply and to pass on information on product risks. In practice this means:

  • passing on to guests information provided by producers about product risks
  • passing back to producers safety complaints, information and experiences on safety-related matters obtained from guests
  • co-operating with the authorities and others in the supply chain in taking action to avoid or remove those risks.

 

  • Note: if you discover that you have provided an unsafe product for your guests to use, you are obliged to notify your local authority of the fact and what action you have taken to remove the risks to your guests.

 

Enforcement

The Trading Standards department of your local authority is responsible for enforcing the regulations mentioned above (except for the Electrical Equipment Regulations).

 

Further guidance

Gas safety:

  • Gas safety advice line - set up by the Health and Safety Executive to offer telephone advice on gas safety matters. Ring freephone 0800 300 363. (The lines are open 08:00-17:30hrs Monday to Thursday and 08:00-17:00hrs on Friday).
  • For further information on the Gas Safe Register visit the Gas Safe Register website

 

There is a range of guidance publications available to download on the HSE website including:

 

Electrical equipment safety:

 

General:

  • Further advice is available from the Trading Standards Department of your local authority who enforce the Regulations mentioned above (except for the Electrical Equipment Regulations).
  • A copy of the Chartered Trading Standards Institute guidance on general product safety in rented accommodation is available from the the Business Companion website.