Welcome! Here are the website rules, as well as some tips for using this forum.
Need to contact us? Visit https://heatinghelp.com/contact-us/.
Click here to Find a Contractor in your area.

Contractor kicked out of house for doing CO test

This is something that I have encountered over the years and something my students are experiencing.

They test a furnace and it is producing over a 1000ppm of carbon monoxide,  The home owner is told it is dangerous and needs repair.  The homeowner says they have never been poisoned and they think the contractor is pulling a fast one sand tells them to get out of the house.  They ask the homeowner to sign their work ticket that shows the high CO reading and the homeowner refuses to sign, but you leave a copy with them.

There is no measureable CO in the house at the time.  The homeowner has no CO alarm and doesn't want one. 

If the homeowner is injured or dies there potentially is no valid proof that the homeowner was properly warned and in court it becomes hearsay.  You are kicked out before you can turn off the furnace.  What do you do??

I know what I suggested but I just wonder if anyone else here has had a similar incident and what did they do? 


  • Mark Eatherton
    Mark Eatherton Member Posts: 5,853
    Report it to the utility purveyor...

    THEY are on the hook for having had provided the fuel in the first place, and they also have the authority to enter, notify and if ignored, sever service to the affected building(s).

    We can probably thank 60 Minutes and all of the other sensational contractor entrapment shows for this marked change in attitudes. Wonder how THEY would feel if some one gets sick or worse from a true condition.

    Remember, you touched it last, and therefore you OWN the problem, regardless of whether the consumer accepts that facts or not. The long arm(s) of the law will eventually find their way to you and your pockets. Trust me, been there, done that, have scars to prove it.

    Travek safely and tread lightly.


    There was an error rendering this rich post.

  • icesailor
    icesailor Member Posts: 7,265
    CO Testing:

    Where I worked, there is an oil company. As a company policy, no matter what they do, even if it is just changing a filter, they test. They do a complete combustion analysis on everything. They have the printer, leave one copy, stapled to a company card. They take another back to the office. Because their liability insurance REQUIRED that there be a record of how it was running when the tech left the premises. If they had no proven record of how it was running, the insurance company wouldn't cover them for liability. They have 5 up to date Wohlers, at least one is freshly re-calibrated.

    If it is a company to ALWAYS combustion analyze a system, and keep the records, you will have all the proof you need to show that the client chose to not believe you.

    My Bacharach Insight could be downloaded to my computer and kept in a file with any other information I wanted to keep on an Excel spreadsheet.

    If it is a company practice, and you stick to it with all employees, you will be able to prove what you did. If you just do it wishy-washy, and you have a problem, you might have a real problem. Test everything. Own an analyzer and know how to use it.
  • Bob Harper
    Bob Harper Member Posts: 1,049
    Failure to warn?

    The legal principle upon which the contractor would be sued is a "Failure to Warn". Under this principle, the contractor would not have to be held to the 4 requirements for negligence (duty to act, damages, act or omission and proximate cause) but simply failure to warn adequately. In order to warn, you must prove you informed the plaintiff of the hazard, the effects of the hazard and sometimes even the effects of those effects. For instance, its not enough to say something constitutes a fire hazard. You would have to also show you informed them that a fire could cause personal injury and property damage, which could in term, result in death. You cannot assume they understand the sequelae of a hazard.

    In the case with CO, you would need to explain how it affects the body, that at lower doses, it can cause permanent injuries and specify those injuries then what high doses can result in (death).

    In order to prove you adequately warned someone who refuses to sign your form, you must send them a Certified Letter return receipt requested. I would also send a copy to the fire marshal and AHJ. If it involves gas or oil, I'd send a copy to the fuel supplier, too.

    When I worked as a Regional Quality Assurance Manager for a large manufacturer with owned distribution, we wrote the policies for technicians. In cases where the hazard represented a "danger" as defined by ANSI Z535.4-2007 we were required to perform a Tag Out/ Lock Out even if against the will of the homeowner. That meant disabling the fuel by disconnecting the fuel line and capping it then attaching a tag and disconnecting the electrical control similarly. The point was to make it so the homeowner would have to use tools to re-connect the system. We drew up our own form for TOLO and asked the homeowner to sign. If they didn't, we filled it out and left it  attached to the equipment with two copies while we kept the original. This form instructed them to contact us for a post-view inspection prior to energizing the equipment or we would not accept any responsibility. If they refused to sign, a copy of the TOLO form was included in the Cert. Letter.

    We never were sued for disabling their equipment though they sometimes cussed us out and refused to pay for the service call. At least they lived.

    Also, take pics as you go. That means pics of the installation at various angles of perspective, close ups, screen shots of your analyzer, the equipment rating plate, etc.

  • Weezbo
    Weezbo Member Posts: 6,232

    Jim ,

    the thought needs to be conveyed to the home owner that we are there by permission.

    We have no Right to do just anything we feel like doing in their home , anymore than he has the Right to burn down his neighborhood. One of the reasons , that we have to do our work correctly is because of the permission we have to work comes with requirements we have in responsibilities to ourselves and the rest of the community.

    People may not get what you say right away , so you have to let it "Sink In" ...

    exactly what it is that you have just finished saying....

    I think as a first line of approach that tact works best. It also helps to have a second means of referral to that on your service bill .

    People may pick up on something that they read quicker some not . However , i sometimes say ,

    "i don''t want to sound like an alarmist , buh this condition could quickly cause your death and there would be no amount of money that could ever fix That, then."

    (This is not fear mongering . it is simply stating a fact)

    The next line i roll with , is , "Because of that , it is best to do what we can right now , with a few mins of our time ,rather than wait for later."

    that implies that you and the homeowner are on the same page and just to reinforce what you just said if you then say , "You are not that bad a guy and you certainly don't seem suicidal , ... " and use a dash of humor to change perspectives . you have basically captured most of the sane world right there.

    the next few customers are the ones that are much more difficult to get across to , they know everything and you are just some paid monkey to them.

    almost anything that you say is taken as drivel. So it iis good to point out the consequences once again and reinforce that part about you being part of the community and that it needs to be dealt with and will be by the city firemarshall or fuel provider . tell them that it is not a threat .

    if that does not work , let them know the FireMarshall may see other code violations and bring along enforcement officers . which he can then deal with instead of you .

    that is something i have only had to mention to the very few to get through to them how important they need to be considering what they say or do around me ... and that ,

    was when a chimney was on fire from a creosote buildup in a wood stove.

    i hope that outline is succinct enough. To draw from when added to other peoples advise in your presentation of ideas to the techs in your classes.

  • Jim Davis_3
    Jim Davis_3 Member Posts: 578
    We have the authority

    Not that everyone follows the National Fuel Gas Code but it states the agent of the homeowner assumes the Authority Having Jurisdiction in many cases and I would assume safety would be #1.  We are not at someones house as a guest but as a hired qualified contractor to perform our job.  I have seen several  court cases where allowing the homeowner to make a decision on safety has cost contractors millions of dollars.

    I pretty sure Bob said it all.  Years ago I almost shut down a Dry Cleaner for dangerous equipment and I was only there to do a demo.  The owner had an emergency meeting and didn't show up.  I tested his equipment and found it dangerous and spilling into the space.   I got his permission to resolve the problem immediately or his people would also be advised of then pending hazard.

    The argument here might be "I think its dangerous?" or It is dangerous!!
  • Tim McElwain
    Tim McElwain Member Posts: 4,629
    I would shut off the affected

    equipment, disconnect the fuel source cap it off and send the customer a registered letter confirming my actions. I may have just saved some ones life.