Gas Safety Spotlight

Carbon Monoxide True or False Answers – Thanks to Gas Safe Register

On Facebook last week we asked True or False questions about Carbon Monoxide, straight from the Gas Safe Register’s Gas Engineer Magazine. We hoped that we would be able to bust some myths about carbon monoxide and get people to discuss some of the possibly lesser known risk factors. On Monday we asked True or False: Smoke from cigarettes doesn’t produce CO. Answer: FALSE. Maybe not so surprisingly to those of you who have seen health warning about cigarettes listing CO as one of many harmful substances in cigarette smoke, but cigarettes aren’t commonly mentioned when we think about CO. Remember, any hydrocarbon fuel can produce CO when combustion is incomplete – this includes tobacco. On Tuesday we asked True or False: It isn’t safe to take a portable stove or barbecue inside a tent or caravan without any ventilation. Answer: TRUE. We’ve mentioned this one before, so if you were listening you would know. Portable barbeques are great out in the open where there’s enough oxygen to make sure you can have complete combustion and where any incomplete combustion will be blown away. In a restricted area like a tent or a caravan there’s a higher chance of CO build up. Wednesday brought us the True or False question: Chimneys can get blocked by a bird’s nest or plants. Answer: TRUE. We’ve seen this one before as well. Without proper ventilation through your chimney allowing complete combustion and the products of combustion to escape from your house, you could be in big trouble with possible CO poisoning. This applies to gas, wood, coal and any other hydrocarbon fuel. Check them regularly, especially if you have any signs of CO poisoning. Thursday rolled around quicker than we expected with the question True or False: A CO detector that changes colour to black when there are high levels is all you need to protect you against CO. Answer: Very Much FALSE. A “black-spot” detector does detect CO and can warn you, but only if you’re looking at it. As I don’t have someone in my house to look at the CO detector 24/7, I find it’s best to have an audible one that will wake you up or make you take notice if you’re out of the room. For the sake of £20-30 in a DIY shop, it isn’t worth the wages of the person to sit and watch out...

Read More

CO Poisoning – Granada Reports 14th December

CO Poisoning – Granada Reports 14th December

Gas Safety Week this year was deemed to be a success by Gas Safe, and here at Primus we’ve seen an increase in the numbers of people opting for their annual service. But carbon monoxide is still a problem, and with the winter weather getting worse and boilers and other appliances being used more and more, you could be at risk if you haven’t had your appliances checked! Last night on Granada Reports, a feature on carbon monoxide highlighted the recent death of a 78 year old man, as well as illness of a younger male in the same property – presumably his son – and three members of emergency services including North West Ambulance staff, leaving them hospitalised. All of the emergency services were called to the house in Preston on the 9th December around tea-time, following illness of the gentleman, who was unresponsive on arrival and later died. The fire service confirmed that it was a leak of carbon monoxide that had caused the issue and turned off the device, while sending those taken ill to Royal Preston Hospital for treatment. Ambulance staff were interviewed on the news yesterday, stating the seriousness of the issue. They do not expect to fall ill when doing their jobs – usually the majority of the danger has passed before they arrive on scene. The paramedics were aware that they were feeling a little different to usual, as they were being poisoned by the escape. They were lucky that the effects were noticed and that the leak was not as big as it could have been, as CO can kill in minutes. A north west gas engineer was also interviewed in the studio, and he highlighted the importance of annual servicing – stating, unfortunately correctly, that lots of people do not get their appliances checked as long as they appear to be working properly, and it can lead to serious issues with CO escapes not being spotted until it is too late. Slow leaks are often misinterpreted as flu, food poisoning or other similar conditions, and particularly in the elderly or children can go undetected for months. Make sure you know the symptoms, and pay attention to if they get better when you leave the house, or move into another room away from the appliance. Any appliances that burn a hydrocarbon fuel can be responsible for CO poisoning – traditionally people...

Read More

Landlords: Get Gas Safe!

Landlords: Get Gas Safe!

Your appliances should have a yearly service and check to make sure that they are still safe to use, and that they’re not spilling CO into your home. If you own the device, then it’s up to you to look after it. Most people who live in rented accommodation have a gas boiler they use for central heating, but it belongs to their landlord (i.e. it stays with the property if you were to move out), and therefore the landlord is responsible for making sure that it is safe. Did you know it’s an offense to not be able to produce a valid gas safety certificate for the appliances in your rental property? Not all landlords do, some of them put their tenants at risk, some of them leave their tenants cold if an appliance gets turned off, and sometimes there are serious consequences for failing to protect tenants. And this lot faced the law for not having their appliances checked: In July last year, a landlord in Blackburn faced a fine of £260 and paid costs of £207 after she ignored the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) multiple times about the checks she needed to make on the gas appliances in her rented property. Her tenant said that a gas engineer only came to visit and perform a gas safety check just before she was due to move out after two years. There were four gas fires and a gas boiler present, so there was a risk that one of these appliances may be unsafe and cause issues for the tenant. The landlord ignored several letters from both the council and the HSE about producing a valid certificate before she was eventually taken to court for missing the deadline. The checks would have cost less than the fines, so this landlord lost out massively! Two cases surfaced in October last year, with two landlords being fined heavily for failing to check the gas appliances they were allowing their tenants to use. The first, in Plymouth, had a gas cooker installed for his tenants, which was later found to be Immediately Dangerous. The HSE were called after the landlord couldn’t produce the required certificate upon request of the council, and although the landlord did eventually produce a certificate, it was past the deadline that the HSE had given him. When tested by an engineer, the appliance was found to...

Read More

CO – colourless, odourless, deadly – what to do?

CO – colourless, odourless, deadly – what to do?

CO can come from any hydrocarbon fuel that hasn’t burned cleanly – including coal, wood, oil, petrol, diesel and natural gas. When they burn properly – with proper ventilation and removal from general residential areas – the carbon in the fuels combine with oxygen to create carbon-dioxide or CO2, the same thing we breathe out after we breathe in oxygen. But when the fuel doesn’t burn cleanly, there isn’t enough oxygen to create CO2, so we end up with incomplete combustion where the oxygen shares the carbon, and you end up with deadly CO. CO alarms are required in Scotland, or if you have a solid fuel appliance in your property. Your gas engineer will check your appliances aren’t releasing CO when you have your annual service done. But things can go wrong in the meantime; maybe you’ve just moved into a new property, maybe your landlord isn’t the best at keeping up annual checks, maybe there has been damage to your appliance that you’re not aware of. If you don’t have an alarm, what do you have to look out for? Six symptoms: • headache • dizziness • nausea (and vomiting) • breathlessness • collapse • loss of consciousness   You may be experiencing these because you’ve got the flu, or food poisoning, or you’ve been on a run first thing in the morning and you’ve got low blood sugar, or you could be being poisoned by your appliances. It’ll be harder to tell if you live alone, as you can’t check with other members of your household, but you should notice the symptoms start to alleviate if you get some fresh air only to come back when you return to your home and your appliance. Still unsure, have a look around: • The flame on a gas cooker should be crisp and blue. If it’s orange, or looks more like a candle than a hob, turn it off till you can get it checked • Your boiler might be regularly cutting out and needing to be reset • Is there increased condensation around your windows? • Is there any dark staining on your appliances or surfaces near to them? What do I do: Firstly, if you know how to, turn off the appliance you think may be the issue. If you only have one fuel burning appliance in your house, it’s likely to be that one. If...

Read More

Gas Work and the Law: No intention of knowing what they were doing

Gas Work and the Law: No intention of knowing what they were doing

Alternatively to the title, you could say that this lot knew exactly what they were doing – they were putting you at risk. There’s a difference between the plumber that hopes that you don’t notice they’re not registered – taking advantage of the ignorance we’ve hopefully helped to alleviate here – and the one that actively tells you that they’re registered when they’re not. You’d be shocked to hear that his does happen – some workmen will make up a registration number and search it in the register to make sure that it does correlate to an engineer, then tell you that’s them. They may use one that belongs to someone they know, someone who did work on their home, or a previous employer who are registered. Quite simply, they’re out to make money without the outlay of time and effort on getting qualified – and they’re the worst kind of cowboy gas fitters. A bunch of them recently have faced the law though: In July last year, an Essex plumber faced 240 hours of community service, a four-month prison sentence suspended for 12 months and costs of £892 for his illegal work in fried chicken shops. Members of the general public were unknowingly put at risk, along with staff of the shops and their families, when the plumber carried out annual gas safety record checks on commercial cookers despite not being registered nor qualified for such work. He used an expired registration number he’d picked up with a previous employer, and ignored HSE warnings when he was discovered to be making false claims, prior to the prosecution. In February, a County Durham plumber put tenants at risk by faking landlord safety records – claiming to be registered, and often falsely claiming he performed the previous year’s check. He faced 16 weeks in prison suspended for 12 months, 200 hours of unpaid work and £500 in costs for his reckless behaviour – providing certificates for landlords that they thought were genuine when in fact he was not competent to carry out the checks in any way. In March, two plumbers faced the law for faked paperwork on a boiler in a hotel in Sawbridgeworth. After being asked to do the work, the overseeing plumber asked another non-gas-qualified plumber to install a gas fired hot water boiler, and to service the gas appliances following an inspection by the Environmental Health Officer...

Read More

Gas Work and the Law – Should know what they’re doing

Gas Work and the Law – Should know what they’re doing

You’ve heard the horror stories – these people who don’t hold up to date qualifications and just keep that under wraps so you believe they are fully capable of doing their job. You get a registered engineer, you check their certificate, look at their ID card, phone or text the Gas Safe Register to confirm that they are currently registered and hold the correct qualifications for what you need them for. So, you’re safe. Unfortunately, not necessarily. Gas Safe do their best to get rid of the cowboys, but without reports from customers, they don’t know who is and who isn’t flaunting the rules after they’ve got their registration. The important thing is that you did everything that you could, you’ve given yourself the best chance of having your work done safely. But if you’re certain (or even just suspect) that there’s something wrong, don’t be afraid to report them to Gas Safe – if it turns out that they didn’t do anything wrong, it’s then a positive reflection on them. And if they’re wrong, like this lot, then they get the justice they deserve: November 2014, a case of laziness and greed from an engineer in Somerset during an annual service. He identified repairs that were required, and then left the property to get the approval and the parts that he needed. When the energy supplier sent another engineer around, some of the parts were required but others weren’t, and the suspect engineer had also used a 20p coin to ‘fix’ a viewing glass in the boiler – leaving it Immediately Dangerous. He was fined £1000, plus £353 in costs, and the energy supplier’s engineer couldn’t believe the state the boiler had been left in: there were signs of heat damage inside and outside the boiler before he even started, and his shoddy ‘repair’ could have lead to escape of carbon monoxide into the property. A gas engineer in the Isle of Man faced the law in December last year, after not installing a boiler in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. He cut corners and sealed the new flue to the masonry with expanding foam, leaving his customer at risk of the fumes from the gas boiler getting into his house instead, and was fined £2500, plus costs of £1000. March saw a Staffordshire gas fitter sentenced to 240 hours of unpaid community work after CO poisoning to his...

Read More