Why low-cost 240v smoke alarm models pose a health risk
As the deadline for the new 2022 Queensland smoke alarm legislation looms, more landlords are scrambling to make their rental properties compliant.
Depending on the property, upgrading to the new smoke alarm legislation can be costly.
An alarming new trend has emerged where cheaper photoelectric smoke alarms are being installed to save on these costs.
However, cheaper models are not always compliant to the new legislation and may present a health risk.
Some alarms have a plug-in lead to power the alarm, which is fed through a large hole in the baseplate.
The lead on these alarms could be a fire or electrical safety risk as they only have a single insulation cable and sub-par terminals.
To safely remove the alarms from the baseplate to replace the backup battery, the property's power must be turned off.
Additionally, the large hole in the baseplate presents a rather significant health risk should the alarm be installed on a ceiling containing asbestos, due to the continuous exposure to friable asbestos.
Exposure to asbestos fibres can cause life-threatening illnesses.
As such there are strict guidelines around the handling and disposal of all contaminated materials after installation.
Unfortunately, it is not possible to be sure a material contains asbestos unless a chemical test is conducted.
Several products used in homes contain asbestos, yet others do not and are safe to use despite their similar appearance.
As a general rule, if a building was built:
- before the mid-1980s, it is highly likely that it would have asbestos material.
- between the mid-1980s and 1990, it is likely that it would have some asbestos material.
- after 1990, it is highly unlikely that it would have asbestos material.
- on timber strips or any other material on the ceiling that is not asbestos, where present.
- using double-sided tape, where alarms cannot be screwed into the ceiling.
- on to the wall, where the ceiling has sprayed on plaster which contains asbestos fibres.
Property owners should think twice about opting for the cheapest option when selecting a smoke alarm as not only are these new problem alarms an asbestos health risk, electrical shock risk, and fire risk, they may also not be compliant to the new 2022 Queensland smoke alarm legislation.
This means when rectification work is required it will be up to the property owner to find a provider who is an expert in legislation as well as willing to work with materials containing asbestos.
The best approach is to avoid these alarms altogether and ensure that your smoke alarm installer is using high-quality compliant alarms.
Many other providers are using these problem smoke alarms to keep their installation prices low.
When choosing a smoke alarm installer, check what smoke alarm brand they are using and make sure to ask them if the smoke alarms:
- meet Australian Standard 3786:2014;
- are photoelectric;
- are powered by either 240 volt or ten-year lithium batteries; and,
- are interconnectable.
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