21 July, 2014

Your holiday checklist – don’t forget to pack the carbon monoxide alarm.

Swimming costume – check. Sun lotion – check. Inflatable lilo – check.

Your holiday packing is almost complete but you’ve got that nagging feeling that there is something missing from your suitcase.

Go safe and enjoy your holidays

Go safe and enjoy your holidays

Well, if you are heading off to a holiday apartment, cottage, caravan or even boat, you have most likely forgotten to pack one small item that could make all the difference to your long-awaited vacation – a carbon monoxide (CO) detector.

At The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), we recommend that people take a small, portable CO detector with them whether they are going home or abroad to prevent tragedies that we have sadly seen many times before.

Carbon monoxide is known as the silent killer because you can’t see it, hear it, smell it or taste it, meaning its deadly fumes can act without families even realising it, often through the night while they are asleep.

The problem is that fumes can be caused by a faulty or badly-serviced gas and other fossil fuel-burning appliance, whether it’s a heater, gas stove, generator or even barbecue in an enclosed space.

Follow our tips for a happy, safe family holiday

Follow our tips for a happy, safe family holiday

Seven-year-old Christianna Shepherd and her six-year-old brother Robert, from Wakefield in West Yorkshire, died from carbon monoxide poisoning during a holiday in Corfu after a faulty boiler leaked gas into the hotel bungalow where they were staying in October 2006.

Last year, an Easter boating holiday turned into tragedy when 36-year-old mum Kelly Webster and her 10-year-old daughter Laura Thornton died after inhaling CO fumes as they slept on a moored motor cruiser on Lake Windermere in the Lake District. Investigators found that fumes from a generator, whose improvised exhaust and silencer system had become detached, had spread into the cabin.

So, when you get to your holiday home, here are three simple tips to remember:

  1. Take a portable CO detector to check for any signs of the dangerous gas – these can be bought for just a few pounds from most DIY stores but are priceless in terms of the lives they can save
  2. Make sure the premises are well ventilated and never use a barbecue inside
  3. Be aware of the symptoms and dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning.

RoSPA’s carbon monoxide safety website has more details on CO symptoms but the main signs to look out for include:

  • suffering prolonged flu-like symptoms – headaches, nausea, breathlessness or dizziness
  • the boiler pilot light flames burning orange, instead of blue
  • sooty stains on or near appliances
  • excessive condensation in the room

    Spot the signs of CO poisoning

    Spot the signs of CO poisoning

Just knowing a few of the signs to look out for will already have equipped you with some useful knowledge. This RoSPA video, below, highlights why being aware of carbon monoxide is so important.


I’m sure you will have a lovely break and I’ll leave you to get on with that packing. Oh, and remember, when summer is over, it will be time to arrange for that all important Autumn service to your boiler at home.

Alison Brinkworth, RoSPA public health support officer.


15 July, 2014

When you suffer a tragedy in your life surely you would want to help others?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’m Joy Edwards, and in October 2010 both mine and my family’s lives changed forever.  On this morning my son, who was 8, walked into the twins’ bedroom and discovered his baby sister Leah entangled in a looped blind cord.

I ran into the bedroom, raised my daughter to try and slacken the cord and untangled her.  The ambulance was called and paramedics soon arrived and took over CPR on Leah.

The ambulance and paramedics took our little girl and we followed after in a police car.  When we arrived at the hospital I knew straight away the news was not good as there was a security man outside the room. Watching too many Casualty and Holby City programmes you learn the procedure.

Leah was so cold and the colour had already started to drain from her tiny face.  I willed her to wake up; she was never a very good sleeper and all I wanted her to do now was wake up so I could take her home to her siblings and twin brother.  The hardest thing I have ever had to do is tell her brothers and sister that she wasn’t coming home.

Our last photo of our daughter was in the September when she had her first ice cream. It’s a photograph we will treasure.

After her death I decided that it would not be in vain and was determined to raise awareness about the dangers of looped blind cords.

When ROSPA called and asked whether I would help with their campaign, I agreed without hesitation – well, wouldn’t you? OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

ROSPA is a charity which relies on fundraising and charitable donations to raise awareness and prevent accidents.  Without donations they would not have been able to give away thousands of free cleats and safety packs to raise awareness and educate families on the dangers of blind cords.

They also campaign on risks around the home and the dangers of not wearing seat belts in vehicles, to name just a couple of things.

Accidents occur on a daily basis and many can be avoided.  Through raising awareness I hope the number of accidents can be reduced dramatically.

When I received a phone call to say I had been nominated for an award I was out walking and I felt like I had a huge grin across my face.  All I thought of was “I am just a parent. Yes we had a terrible tragedy, but an award? Surely anyone in the same situation would do the same.”

When I start something I tend to carry on to the end. Even though new blind standards and regulations have been brought into force for manufacturers and fitters to adhere to, there is still more to do. Parents and grandparents who already have blinds in their homes still need to be educated on the dangers.

Joy AwardI was honoured on June 17 to be given the Archangel Award and was amazed at the standing ovation I received.

This is my first award and it has pride of place in our living room. Each time I look at it, opposite there is a photo of Leah smiling. I would like to think that she was proud too and that her death has prevented other families from going through the same heartache.

8 July, 2014

Breakdown dramas for the “slow” kings of the open road

Part two of Roger Bibbings’ story of the “East to West Slowly” challenge.

Roger, our "easy rider" is pictured on the right.

Roger, our “easy rider” is pictured on the right.

The party started out promptly at 8.30am from the foot of the giant wind turbine named Gulliver at Ness Point, in Lowestoft, on Saturday, June 21, seen off by the Mayor, Councillor Roger Belham, himself a former motorcyclist.

The route ran past Bungay towards Diss and Thetford and out towards Huntingdon. A coffee stop at pub in the Cambridgeshire village of Wicken led to a conversation with the landlady who revealed that her son had been run over on the drive when he was three, although remarkably he had not been seriously hurt (driveway accidents are clearly more common than is realised).

After skirting Northampton, the riders made their way by lanes to Banbury and then towards Stow-on-the-Wold, stopping briefly to see the solstice celebrations at the Rollright Stones.

Following an overnight stop in and around Malvern the group headed off west the next day, stopping for a hearty breakfast at the Buttley Tea rooms at Winforton near Hay.

The LE, which had been unused for the best part of 30 years but was carefully recommissioned for the trip by John Bradshaw, performed well on the way out to Lowestoft and over to Malvern. But approaching Brecon its ancient electrical system suddenly cried “enough!”

After nearly two hours of fruitless fault finding the decision was reached that the three remaining bikes should press on to the finish, taking a scenic route over the Black Mountain to Carmarthen but thereafter sticking to the A40 to make up time.Roger Bibbings 2_E2WS_2014 smaller

Approaching Haverfordwest they were met by about a dozen riders from the Pembrokeshire Vintage and Classic Motorcycle club, who had heard about the ride. They kindly escorted the three MZ machines on the final leg to meet the mayoral party at 5.30pm. Speeches were made and photos taken, including by the local press.

Phil Speakman then rode straight back to Liverpool, while the other two riders and Phillip Thwaites enjoyed the culinary delights of St Davids.

The next day was not without its dramas. Peter Henshaw’s MZ 250 expired on the way home with an obscure short circuit high up on the Black Mountain. With no mobile phone contact up there, the last remaining machine, the trusty little 150 MZ, with only 10 horsepower, had to be pressed into service to take a rider and pillion plus luggage (combined weight more than 30stone) to civilisation to summon recovery.

All in all, though, it was a great adventure undertaken in glorious sunshine.

The appeal for RoSPA’s Driveway Safety Campaign is ongoing. And plans are afoot for another “slow” motorcycle challenge in 2015.

1 July, 2014

East to West (eventually)

Roger Bibbings shares the story of an incredible fundraising road trip, ‘East to West Slowly’.

With minutes to spare, but still travelling at a steady 35–40mph, three motorcyclists on vintage two-stroke machines wound their way along the Pembrokeshire coast road to a rendezvous with the Mayor of St David’s.

Roger Bibbings_E2WS_2014 smaller This was the culmination of a two-day ride across Britain from Lowestoft to St Justinian’s lifeboat station at the most westerly tip of Wales to raise money for RoSPA’s Driveway Safety campaign.

At least 29 children have been killed on, or near, the driveways of their homes since 2001. Sadly, in most cases, an adult member of the child’s family, a neighbour or a visitor was driving the vehicle. The campaign raises awareness of simple measures that drivers can take to prevent such tragedies.

Building on the similar ‘End to End Slowly’ trip last year from Land’s End to John O’Groats, the ride was held on June 21 (the longest day) and 22.

It attracted six riders, although in the end only three, journalist Peter Henshaw, MZ spares guru Phil Speakman and myself, the organiser, made it to meet the mayor, Councillor David Halse, who came in a wartime BSA sidecar driven by fellow councillor Malcolm Gray. Councillor Halse kindly presented a cheque of £50 on behalf of St David’s City Council.

Participants were on small vintage motorcycles. The party included two early 1970s East German MZ 250s, two MZRoger Bibbings 4_E2WS_2014 smaller 150s and a late 1960s LE Velocette ridden by retired university lecturer and motoring writer, John Bradshaw. Ian McGregor, who was recovering from a recent heart operation, decided to follow in his camper van.

The idea behind making the ride a ‘slow’ challenge was to savour the pleasure that is to be had from travelling slowly on two wheels using minor roads as much as possible. You see, smell and remember so much more.

And the route offered a fascinating series of vistas, from the flatlands of the Fens to the high sandstone peaks of South Wales.

Unfortunately, Phillip Thwaites had to withdraw after his MZ 150 developed main bearing trouble. Gallantly, though, he limped home and got out his BMW 850 GS to meet the finishers in St David’s. But his was not to be the only mechanical drama…

You can find out about the ride itself next week. In the meantime, you can still donate to the campaign here.

17 June, 2014

Easy rider hits the road – slowly

When you hear the word ‘motorcycle’, you tend to think of a lean machine zipping through the traffic. It’s a vehicle often associated with speed, yet I’m heading off on a slow motorcycle challenge this week to raise £500 for RoSPA’s Driveway Safety campaign.

Roger B bike picIt’s the e2w slowly challenge and it takes place on the 21 and 22 June.

I’ll be riding my trusty 1979 TS150 MZ to raise money for RoSPA’s campaign, because at least 27 children have been killed on, or near, the driveways of their homes since 2001.

Tragically, in most of these cases, an adult member of the child’s family, a neighbour or a visitor to the house was driving the vehicle.

RoSPA has been working to raise awareness of driveway dangers among the parents, carers and grandparents of young children. And with your help, they can do more.

My fellow riders and I will be set off from the most easterly part of Great Britain in Lowestoft on the longest day of the year and finish up in St David’s, the most westerly point, at sunset the next day.

We will ride vintage motorcycles, mostly over 25 years old and under 200cc, and travel mainly on minor roads. We will carry all camping gear, tools and supplies (except water and petrol) on our bikes and¬ there will be no backup vehicle.

Please help me to raise life-saving funds for RoSAPA. You can donate by visiting http://www.justgiving.com/e2wslowly.

Roger Bibbings, RoSPA’s retired occupational safety adviser

20 May, 2014

Aching bones can’t thwart charity Highland trek

For the past few months, Liz Lumsden has been sharing preparations for her West Highland Way walk in aid of a RoSPA child safety project. Here, she blogs about the tough 50-mile two-day trek itself.

Liz (far right), Donald (centre) and friends at the start of the walk.

Liz (far right), Donald (centre) and friends at the start of the walk.

Not many people will walk 25 miles in one day – and then get up the next morning and walk another 25! For me, that was the biggest challenge. I have done walks before of a similar length, but always had a day to recover before going back to work. To repeat the experience on a second day was not easy.

My son Donald and I had agreed to walk 50 miles of the West Highland Way to raise funds for the printing and distribution of The Birthday Party, a children’s book about safety. RoSPA wants every child starting school in Scotland this year to get a copy.

We began at 7am on day one with a climb out of Crainlarich before the terrain flattened out for a while during the seven miles over to Tyndrum. After a coffee we headed off over to Bridge of Orchy in time for lunch. We needed it – the next stage was a real climb and ended up on Rannoch Moor – 10 miles of desolation – before the long walk down the mountains to the only hotel for miles – the Kingshouse. We could see it from it about three miles away and kept thinking about the bath and the hot meal that were waiting for us.

I ached from head to toe by the time I crawled (almost literally) into bed that night. I didn’t feel much better the next morning, but there was no going back. It wasn’t a very appealing thought to get started as the rain had been pouring down most of the night and had only eased off a bit by 8am.

The group reach the all important half way point and stop for a spot of lunch!

The group reach the all important half way point and stop for a spot of lunch! Well deserved we say!

Waterproofs on, we were ready to complete the challenge. After a fairly flat start we had to climb the Devil’s Staircase. It’s tough, but thankfully doesn’t last for long and the following section is mostly flat or downhill into Kinlochleven. The sun even came out for a while.

We were able to enjoy lunch in the sun before popping into a cafe in Kinlochleven for coffee and white chocolate “rocky road” (my favourite!). The sugar rush kept us going on the long climb out of Kinlochleven and down through the most amazing valley before the final slog to Fort William.

Like the previous day, we could see where we wanted to be long before we reached it. The last section of the West Highland Way is on surfaces that are very unforgiving and our bones started to really ache with about five miles still to go.

We walked with friends who were fundraising for other charities and had a real sense of achievement when we crossed the finishing line. We all had friends and family to meet us and were receiving text messages during the last few hours encouraging us to “keep going”.

Donald and I love to walk, but this was certainly his biggest challenge to date and he completed it suffering from only one blister (I managed to avoid having any – thanks to the amazing properties of Vaseline!).

I managed to exceed my fundraising target, but we still need money for the project. Every £1 raised will mean three parents can share home safety messages while reading The Birthday Party to their children. You can still donate at www.justgiving.com/elizabeth-lumsden2 or by texting WWHW50 £2, WWHW50 £5 or WWHW50 £10 to 70070.

16 May, 2014

How safe are e-cigarettes?

We all know that smoking is one of the hardest habits to kick and most smokers have at some stage wished that a new invention would come along to get rid of their cigarette cravings.

E-cigNow electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, have emerged onto the marketplace and more than 2 million smokers in the UK have turned to them as a way to quit smoking tobacco.

As their use has tripled over the past two years, The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) has become increasingly concerned over safety issues reported about these products, particularly fire risks and the potential for children to be poisoned.

Whilst e-cigarettes don’t contain tobacco, new legislation is being proposed which will ban the sale of these products to under-18s in this country and similar plans have also been announced in the USA.

E-cigarettes use a small battery and atomiser to turn nicotine liquid into an inhalable mist that is an alternative to tobacco smoke. The water vapour is almost odourless and designed to be harmless to both the user and anyone else in the room.  They are often sold in flavours such as strawberry and in bright coloured packaging, both of which can be appealing to children.

There have been reports that very young children are copying their parents’ behaviour by putting e-cigarettes into their mouths when unsupervised.  This has led to a number of children being poisoned by ingesting the liquids contained in the e-cigarette.  Many parents are failing to realise that e-cigarettes should not be left unattended when children are around even though they are not “alight” like traditional cigarettes.

Very young children often copy their parents' behaviour.

Very young children often copy their parents’ behaviour.

Another area of concern is the risk of e-cigarettes overheating and catching fire, especially when they are plugged into a mains supply or a USB port and left to charge.  Last year, 68-year-old Evelyn Raywood was killed when a fire tore through her care home in Hasland, Derbyshire. Fire investigators ruled that a heated battery pack used overnight to charge her e-cigarette overheated and sparked a fire which sadly caused her death.

It’s important to remember that e-cigarettes are relatively new to the marketplace and there are no specific regulations governing their safety.  The cigarettes themselves do not currently need a CE Mark (a sign that shows consumers that a product should be safe).  As such, consumers should exercise caution when considering whether to buy or use these products.

The law also currently allows e-cigarettes to be smoked in public places. Following claims that e-cigarettes help to
normalise smoking, along with concerns that their use in public undermines the existing tobacco smoking ban, there have been proposals for a ban on their use in public places in Wales.

Here at RoSPA, we completely understand how difficult it can be to kick a habit like smoking cigarettes, but our message is clear – if you want to use e-cigarettes as a substitute for smoking tobacco then please be aware of some of the reported hazards associated with them.

Always buy them from a reputable retailer, avoid charging overnight if possible and keep them well out of the reach of children at all times.

I hope that this blog has been of use to you, and good luck if you are trying to kick the habit!

Philip LeShirley, RoSPA product safety adviser.

13 May, 2014

Safer Streets for everyone – join the movement, make a difference!

Here at RoSPA, we want to see safer streets that encourage walking and cycling not only because it helps to prevent injuries, but also because it has a positive effect on a range of health-related issues, including heart disease, mental health and air pollution.

PrintMaking these links between safer roads and wider health issues are crucial. They can have a big impact on families too. Imagine being able to make the journey to school by bike, scooter or on foot without fear of being knocked down by speeding traffic. How would your children feel? Energised, happy, healthy…the list is endless.

Helping to make this vision a reality is Sustrans – which aims to help people choose healthier, cleaner and cheaper journeys and enjoy better, safer spaces to live in. This week, Sustrans is launching a new campaign for Safer Streets and needs your support. The campaign is calling for:

  • 20mph default speed limits across built up areas – this will make everyone’s route safer
  • Dedicated funding for active travel – this will provide the resources needed to transform routes and invest in walking and cycling locally
  • Stronger duties and incentives on local authorities to develop routes and promote cycling and walking.

On the Sustrans website, you can find out more about getting support for making your street safer by creating a “DIY Street” – a tool to enable communities to take vital first steps to restore their streets for people and not cars.

Earlier this year, we unveiled new guidance for road safety and public health professionals to help boost the nation’s health. The report reveals that the greatest impact can be achieved when public health and road safety teams tackle shared agendas, such as working together to reduce the speed and volume of motor traffic or introducing road layouts that encourage safe walking and cycling.Sustrans_Safetoschool

And let us not underestimate the benefits of introducing 20mph speed limits in built up areas; lower speeds make crashes less likely and less severe when they do happen and are effective at protecting people, especially children, pedestrians and cyclists from being killed or injured. They also encourage more people to walk and cycle by providing a more pleasant and safer environment.

Councils are responsible for determining where 20mph limits should be introduced and they should take advantage of opportunities to implement them where they are needed. And this is where you come in! As part of the process, councils consult and engage with local communities and other stakeholders to make sure that safer roads are prioritised where needed and that residents have input into the schemes’ development. What are you waiting for? Get involved!

Duncan Vernon, RoSPA’s road safety manager

6 May, 2014

Health and safety officers have mid-career life satisfaction

Do you have the best job in the world?

According to some fascinating research from the Cabinet Office, the answer is – it depends.

When 274 jobs were assessed for levels of mid-career life satisfaction, health and safety officers came in comfortably around the middle, at number 150, not far off inspectors of standards and regulations (number 143 in the list).

man_thinkingThat puts health and safety officers well ahead of publicans and managers of licensed premises, who came in last, but some way behind vicars, who topped the list.

The research also shows that high income does not automatically lead to life satisfaction.

Vicars earn on average around £20,500, the lowest average of the top three occupations on the list and lower than those gloomy publicans, who earn around £25,000.

Health and safety officers, by the way, have an average salary of around £33,400.

Of course, the research is not saying that all members of one trade or profession enjoy similar rates of life satisfaction or dissatisfaction – it can only suggest average levels. Nor does it imply direct cause and effect – there may be other factors driving the results.

But, at the very least, it provides some useful information next time your teenage son or daughter says they want to become a web designer (ranked 188), a paramedic (ranked 162) or a landscape gardener (ranked 173).

Perhaps more importantly, does the list suggest a relationship between career satisfaction, occupational injury rates and patterns of occupational disease?

Take elementary construction workers, who come only second to publicans at the bottom of the list for life

Alison Wall, editor of The RoSPA Occupational Safety and Health Bulletin.

Alison Wall, editor of The RoSPA Occupational Safety and Health Bulletin.

satisfaction, below rent collectors (ranked 272) and industrial cleaners (ranked 271).

As we know from HSE figures, the construction sector accounts for around 40 per cent of all occupational cancers

and the third highest rates of workplace injuries.

Yet farmers – working in the UK’s most hazardous occupational sector – came in at number eight in terms of life

satisfaction, one of the highest on this list.

Teasing out potential links between health, safety and wellbeing is not easy, although some researchers are starting to explore this area, as is HSE.

For now, maybe the best response to the list is to focus on your own achievements, and remember why you chose your career in safety in the first place.

Alison Wall, editor of The RoSPA Occupational Safety and Health Bulletin


1 May, 2014

Farewell to Mrs Tufty

The school children of Torfaen County Borough Council have said an emotional farewell to Mrs Tufty.

Cake!Viv Carr, who delivers road safety education with the able assistance of Tufty and his friends, said goodbye to the schools she has visited in her role as under sevens organiser, or more commonly, Mrs Tufty, as she retired after 27 years.

Zach Evans, year six pupil at Croesyceiliog Primary School, summed up the feeling of the whole school in a beautifully hand written letter: “Your lessons were entertaining and light hearted…and your puppet friends…will stick in the mind for many generations. Your messages well worded and your activities original and fun.”

One of the hazards of being Mrs Tufty was being recognised in many places – in the supermarket, at the swimming pool and even on a Spanish beach! Viv also reckons there were times when she had more conversations in a day with Tufty than she had with her husband.

Colleagues past and present say goodbye to Mrs Tufty

Colleagues past and present say goodbye to Mrs Tufty (centre, wearing a burnt orange scarf)

Viv’s car was broken into some years ago, and the thieves stole all of her puppets.  Could it have had something to do with Willy Weasel’s naughty friends? It made headlines in the South Wales Argus, and despite pleas for them to be returned they remain lost to this day.

Colleagues past and present gathered at Llanyrafon Manor in Cwmbran to wish Viv well in her retirement.  Penny Thorpe, former principal road safety officer for Gwent, presented Viv with a memento from Road Safety Wales marking the contribution she has made to road safety during her career.

Want to find out more about RoSPA’s retired road safety squirrel? Visit www.rospa.com/about/history/tufty.aspx

Ann Horton, RoSPA Wales’ road safety officer


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