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Carbon monoxide week highlights prosecutions and death rate fall

It is carbon monoxide awareness week (November 16-20) and while the Health and Safety Executive highlights prosecutions in 2008/9 against those who breached gas rules, a Corgi Trust's report highlights a fall in the number of CO-related deaths.
According to provisional figures, the HSE successfully prosecuted 28 people for breaching specific gas legislation in 2008/09, (which covers 66 offences). A total of 173 enforcement notices were also served during this period.

Some of these cases involved engineers found carrying out gas work without being registered or doing jobs which they are not formally qualified for.

Also published this week, is the number of deaths caused by carbon monoxide poisoning linked to domestic appliances in Britain, which have fallen from 24 deaths to 9, says UK gas safety charity the Corgi Trust in its 12th annual report published on Monday (November 16).

The report, compiled from information supplied by investigators at British Gas and CORGI Services, provides an overview of causes and trends associated with CO poisoning incidents relating to mains natural gas and LPG.

The CO incident report confirms nine deaths were reported from April 1, 2007 to June 30, 2008. In this same period, there were 67 non-fatal casualties in 33 incidents.

However compared to 06/07, there has been an increase in incidents, fatalities and casualties. It is unclear whether this is due to under reported numbers in the last couple of years.

Nigel Dumbrell, manager of the Corgi Trust said: 'Gas isn't the only fuel to pose a CO danger, it's important that a co-ordinated approach is adopted between the gas industry, those representing other domestic fuel sectors such as solid fuel and oil and the HSE to fully scope and understand the situation'.

Of the 40 incidents recorded:

No. of Incidents Appliance type No. of deaths

25 Boiler 5

1 Warm air heater 0

4 Room/space heater 2

1 Cooker 1

1 Cooker/boiler 1

8 Not stated

The report identifies those boilers 16 years old or more have 1.6 times the risk of being involved in a CO incident than newer boilers. 'This increase in risk might be down to the fact that older boilers are more likely to be open flued appliances rather than the age of the appliance alone,' said Dumbrell. 'We understand the additional safety risk that open flued appliances pose and are campaigning for a scrappage scheme to replace these models with newer safer models,' he added.

The 07/08 report identifies that privately rented households were 2.6 times more likely to experience a CO poisoning incident than all other householders. In addition, incidents involving safer condensing boilers appear for the first time in the report, however, this is largely a reflection of the rapid increase in the condensing boiler market and seem to relate to poor installation practice rather than appliance design.

Two of the four reported incidents involving condensing boilers, were caused by serious flaws in the installation of the flue system.

Other areas of concern raised by the report are:

-Flue/terminal positioning, for which best practice is defined in BS 5440: Part 1: 2008. Outbuildings, passageways and exposed porches are specific problem areas featured here.

-Servicing is not always comprehensive, if it is carried out at all.

-The seal between flues and appliances.

-Third party effects on flue systems due to building alterations or additions.

The Gas Safe Register, the body responsible for registration of gas engineers, recently launched a review of the enforcement regime to see how it can be improved further, ideas from the industry, engineers and victim support groups are being welcomed.

Peter Brown head of work environment, radiation and gas division, said: 'Using a registered gas fitter is essential and this message does seem to be getting through. More than 176,000 people have phoned or checked online to see that the engineers they use are registered or qualified since the beginning of April'.
18 November 2009


By Tony Brunton
18 November 2009 00:01:00

It should be noted that this is just for gas only in fact in his keynote speech in the House of Lords at the victims event, Lord McKenzie said that " it was with some regret he had to announce a further rise in the number of incidents and fatalities".

So whilst Mr. Dumbrell may see an improvement in one area can it really be seen as an improvement overall particularly when one responsible body keeps refering victims to their local Building Control for action when incidents are reported involving oil fired boilers.

The case for solid fuel is also very questionable with a private company appearing to do more to promote competence than HETAS themselves.

Both of these fuels are not regulated in anything like the manner that gas is regulated and he recourse for victims would appear to be almost, if not completely, unavailable through the so called governing bodies OFTEC and HETAS.
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