Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week highlights dangers of the deadly gas

Published:  10 November, 2015

In support of Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week 2015, which takes place from 16 to 20 November, OFTEC is urging households using oil heating to install carbon monoxide detectors and ensure their boiler is regularly serviced and inspected by a registered technician.

All fossil fuel burning appliances can potentially give off CO. The Department of Health estimates the clear, odourless gas causes around 4,000 hospitalisations and 40 deaths in the UK per year.

As part of this year’s campaign, OFTEC is also encouraging oil users to visit covictim.org and find out more about the dangers of CO poisoning which can cause dizziness, tiredness and breathing difficulties with symptoms often going undetected until it’s too late.

With high profile cases of CO poisoning such as the Thomas Cook incident in 2006, households are becoming more aware of the dangers but there is still work to be done and the safety of consumers remains at the heart of OFTEC’s work.

Malcolm Farrow from OFTEC said: “Nearly 90% of homes in the UK have smoke alarms installed as homeowners understand their safety importance. However, less than half of UK households have a Carbon Monoxide alarm fitted.

“A 2012 survey* showed that 42% of respondents said this was because they already had a smoke alarm, highlighting there is still confusion amongst consumers about the importance of protecting against CO poisoning. This is unnecessarily putting lives at risk.

“While homes with oil heating have a strong safety record, homeowners still need to be aware of the dangers. It is now a legal responsibility for landlords to install CO alarms in rented properties and this should be extended to all households. Homeowners should also have their boiler checked every year by an OFTEC registered technician to reduce the risk.

“We actively encourage households to install a Carbon Monoxide alarm, typically only costing around £15, and we are pleased to support Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week again this year as part of this activity.”

Ideal Boilers’ customer service director Chris Jessop is encouraging installers to use the key messages of CO Awareness Week when talking to their customers about boiler servicing, maintenance and ongoing, efficient and safe operation.

“Gas appliances that are incorrectly installed or not regularly serviced can cause gas leaks, fires, explosions and carbon monoxide poisoning,” explained Mr Jessop. “Every year significant numbers of people across the UK are diagnosed with CO poisoning. CO is invisible, tasteless, has no smell and exposure can be lethal.

“There are a number of ways installers can remind their customers how to stay safe in addition to correct installation and servicing of boilers, including installing CO alarms. New Government legislation which came into effect on 1st October means that landlords must ensure CO alarms are installed in every room that contains a solid fuel burning combustion appliance.

Installers can tweet Ideal for the opportunity to get co-branded safety leaflets for their customers and win CO alarms throughout CO Awareness Week.

Top Tips for helping customers stay safe:

  • Check their gas appliances every year. All gas appliances including boilers should be safety checked once a year and serviced regularly by a Gas Safe registered engineer. Tenants – make sure the landlord arranges this. Encourage your customers to set a reminder so they don’t forget at www.staygassafe.co.uk.
  • Check their engineer is Gas Safe registered. They can find and check an engineer at www.GasSafeRegister.co.uk or call 0800 408 5500.
  • Check their engineer’s Gas Safe Register ID card. Make sure they are qualified for the work they need doing. They can find this information on the back of the card.
  • Check for warning signs their appliances aren’t working correctly e.g. lazy yellow or orange flames instead of crisp blue ones, black marks on or around the appliance and too much condensation in the room.
  • Check they know the six signs of carbon monoxide poisoning – headaches, dizziness, breathlessness, nausea, collapse and loss of consciousness.
  • Check they have an audible carbon monoxide alarm. This will alert them if there is carbon monoxide in their home.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock/Leigh Pather