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Health and Safety Matters: Industry must respond to new CO focus

The latest carbon monoxide tragedy really should be the last, says Bob Towse, head of technical and safety at the HVCA
HISTORY seems to keep repeating itself when it comes to carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. It was absolutely heart rending to see the family of the two children killed while on holiday in Corfu pleading for a solution to this tragic problem.

Christi and Bobby Shepherd's parents launched December's Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week with an emotional call for travel companies to ensure CORGI inspectors check the gas equipment in all holiday accommodation. They labelled the current three-yearly safety inspection as 'unacceptable' insisting it should be increased to an annual check.

Nigel Griffiths MP said the standard of accommodation used by major UK tour operators 'is simply not acceptable'. He called on travel firms to fund a gas safety awareness campaign to make holidaymakers aware of the risks they face and to commission CORGI to 'conduct immediate gas safety checks on a sample of holiday accommodation'.

Yet, there were other parents at the same press conference whose children died from CO poisoning under remarkably similar circumstances more than two decades ago, and still it keeps
happening.

There is a remarkable amount of ignorance about the threat posed by this invisible and odourless killer gas - at home just as much as abroad. Research just completed by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) revealed that 23% of UK homes had one or more problem gas appliances; 8% were judged to be at risk from dangerous levels of CO; and 45% of householders had received no information about the dangers.

Government insists the utility companies should take responsibility and pay for the solutions. Lord Hunt, minister at the Department of Work and Pensions and, therefore, responsible for the HSE, said the current gas safety review would address the problem of lack of public awareness. He added that fuel suppliers were being pressed to provide funding for an advertising campaign.

'It is not unreasonable for government to ask the industry to take responsibility for its customers,' he adds.

Yet the HSE made recommendations to government in 2000 that the fuel industry should fund a national awareness campaign, but that was never followed up.

Our industry is well aware of the threat from CO. It has fully supported CORGI and has worked hard to ensure all installers are properly trained and know how to minimise the threat. We also have excellent audible CO alarms, but precious few are fitted.

If society were better informed about the threat, you can be sure more of them would be asking their installers to carry out annual routine maintenance and service checks on all gas appliances and to provide them with CO detectors.

So, please, let the next press conference be held to launch a national public awareness campaign that will ensure everyone knows about CO, knows about the solutions and is, therefore, able to take the right precautions in their own homes and while on
holiday.


For more information contact Bob Towse on 020 7313 4928 (btowse@hvca.org.uk)
1 January 2007

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