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'CO warning being disregarded' warning

Two of the four deaths caused by Carbon Monoxide (CO) poisoning incidents involving domestic gas boilers and heaters could have been avoided if warning notices left by gas operatives had not been ignored, reports the Gas Safety Trust.
This is among the findings are highlighted in the Trust's Carbon Monoxide Incident Report ( for 2009/10, which provides annual statistics for all those involved with CO awareness.
'Although we don't know why the warning notices were ignored, they are clearly not a strong enough deterrent in some cases and a more effective course of action needs to be agreed to educate and protect the consumer,' said Nigel Dumbrell of the Gas Safety Trust.
'In response to this finding we recommend that the current warning notice classification scheme is reviewed,' he added.
The report, which analyses the formal investigations of domestic CO incidents involving mains natural gas in Great Britain, also identifies a lack of servicing as the most common cause of incidents.
Another factor influencing this year's figures is that 43 per cent of the appliances involved in the 56 reported incidents had received a working visit within 12 months of the incident taking place.
Mr Dumbrell said: 'With budgets and purse strings being tightened across the board, the regular servicing of gas appliances must remain a priority for landlords and homeowners. I'm sure stakeholder organisations such as the Gas Safe Register will be working hard to promote key safety messages to consumers and also ensure that frontline gas installers and engineers are playing their part in terms of safe installations and maintenance.'
The 14th annual CO incident report reviews incidents relating to mains natural gas and piped LPG. It is compiled from information supplied via Downstream Incident Data Report (DIDR) forms completed and submitted by investigators at British Gas, CORGI Services and Gas Safe Register on behalf of the Gas Industry and in consultation with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
Over the reporting period, July 1, 2009 to June 30, 2010, four deaths and 115 casualties in 56 incidents were confirmed to be due to CO poisoning, linked to mains natural gas. One LPG linked incident involving twp casualties was reported.
Compared to the 08/09 analysis, the number of fatalities has dropped dramatically from 17 to four. However, the overall incident figure is the better barometer, suggested Mr Dumbrell. He said: 'The number of people involved with the incidents can change according to who was in the house at the time, so tracking the number of incidents provides a far better benchmark for the industry and policy makers.'
Although the number of incidents remains relatively flat 56 v 57, they are significantly higher than the previous seven years. The report suggests that this may be due in part to particularly colder winters, but further analysis would be required to confirm this trend.
On a more positive note, the report highlights data that may evidence the role and greater use of CO alarms in the home. For instance, overall incident casualties seem to be of a less severe nature. Also, a number of instances were reported by the emergency response provider, but did not qualify for an investigation, where a CO alarm activated and alerted occupants to the onset of danger.
The Carbon Monoxide Incident Report 2009/10 will be available for download from the Gas Safety Trust's website (
15 November 2010


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