Don’t become another statistic – take action now against carbon monoxide poisoning

Losing a life to a silent, invisible gas doesn’t bear thinking about does it? Carbon monoxide doesn’t care how old you are, how healthy you are or where you live and its symptoms can often be confused with flu. But in a bid to raise awareness of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning, The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents and Gas Safe Charity are launching the “Be Gas Safe” programme and are inviting potential partner organisations to get on board.

carbon monoxide alarm Be Gas Safe Gas Safe Charity RoSPA

An example of a CO detector - have you got yours?

Rolling out across England this year, the programme will see 10,000 families receiving a free CO detector and many more receiving safety information. The deadline for organisations to register their interest in becoming local partners is the end of the month – so what are you waiting for? We are particularly interested in organisations that have regular and direct contact with key risk groups, such as families with young children and older people. Priority will be given to organisations in areas where there has been a higher incidence of CO poisoning per head of population or where particular concerns have been raised about gas safety. In return, you will receive an invitation to a briefing event highlighting gas safety issues and outlining the Be Gas Safe programme; a briefing pack on how to run a local Be Gas Safe programme; up to 100 CO detectors for distribution to vulnerable clients; and 1,000 I’m Staying Gas Safe leaflets.

Each year in England and Wales, there are approximately 50 accidental deaths, 200 non-fatal poisonings that require hospital admission and 4,000 visits to A&E that result from CO poisoning*. Children and older people are particularly at risk. With gas appliances and flues that have not been properly installed, maintained or ventilated known to be among the causes of CO poisoning, the key focus of the new three-year programme will be sharing information and advice about how to stay “gas safe” including through the regular servicing of fuel-burning appliances, good ventilation and the use of audible CO detectors.

gas hob carbon monoxide Be Gas Safe Gas Safe Charity RoSPA

Carbon monoxide - the "silent killer"

Is your home at risk? You can help prevent carbon monoxide poisoning by taking sensible precautions. Fuel-burning appliances should be serviced annually by a registered engineer to prevent a dangerous build-up of CO, which results from the burning of all fossil fuels – not just gas. Well ventilated rooms are also a must and chimneys and flues should be swept regularly. For gas appliances, use an engineer registered through Gas Safe Register for installation and annual services. Always check that an engineer’s capabilities, which are listed on the back of his or her identity card, include the job you want doing. If you live in rented property, ask your landlord to show you the property’s gas safety certificate. Homeowners are reminded than audible CO alarms should be used in addition to the other preventative actions and should not be relied upon as a single defence against CO.

It is important that employers, householders, landlords and tenants know the signs of the “silent killer” which has no smell. The symptoms tend to disappear as soon as you get outside into the fresh air when oxygen levels in the blood are restored. That recurring migraine you blamed on stress could be something a lot more sinister. Look out for the following symptoms: headaches, anxiety and depression, nausea, tiredness and drowsiness, dizziness, vomiting, heart palpitations, chest pain, personality change and clumsiness – and take appropriate action. Left undetected, the long term effects of CO poisoning can include paralysis and brain damage. Also look out for gas appliances burning with orange, instead of blue, flames; sooty stains on or near appliances; excessive condensation in the room; and coal or wood fires that burn slowly or go out. If you think there is an immediate danger to you, your family, tenants or organisation, make a call to the gas emergency helpline on 0800 111 999.

Signs of carbon monoxide poisoning Be Gas Safe Gas Safe Charity RoSPA

Spot the signs of CO poisoning

Potential partners across England who wish to join the three-year awareness programme and receive Be Gas Safe resources free of charge can download more information and an application form from the website – Completed forms must be submitted by January 31, 2012, although it would be helpful if interested organisations could make prior contact with RoSPA, by emailing


Gas Safe Register ID card Be Gas Safe Gas Safe Charity RoSPA

Check that the engineer is qualified to work safely and legally on gas appliances

Gas Safe Charity was established in 2009 by the Health and Safety Executive and Gas Safe Register, which is the official list of engineers who are qualified to work safely and legally on gas appliances.

*Figures quoted by the Department of Health (

Ashley Martin, RoSPA’s public health co-ordinator and Be Gas Safe programme manager

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