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Carbon monoxide: the silent killer

Thursday 11 May 2017

In the right hands, gas is safe, however if things go wrong gas appliances can cause gas leaks, fires, explosions and carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.

Carbon monoxide is a highly poisonous substance produced by the incomplete burning of carbon-based products, such as natural gas and liquid petroleum gas (LPG). This happens when a gas appliance has been incorrectly fitted, badly repaired or poorly maintained. It can also occur if flues, chimneys or vents are blocked.

Carbon monoxide is known as the Silent Killer, because you can’t see it, taste it or smell it and it can kill quickly with no warning. Every year CO poisoning affects over 4,000 people in the UK.

Warning signs

The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, headaches, dizziness, nausea, breathlessness, collapse and loss of consciousness, are similar to the flu, food poisoning or a hangover; however there are other signs to look for. If symptoms only occur when at home, or if other people in the home experience the same symptoms at the same time, this could be an indication of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Other warning signs around the home are:

  • lazy, yellow or orange flames - flames should be crisp and blue (note that some decorative-effect gas fires may burn with a yellow flame)
  • dark staining on or around appliances
  • pilot lights that frequently blow out
  • increased condensation inside windows

Gas safety

It is important that all gas appliances are safety checked once a year by a qualified Gas Safe registered engineer. Annual maintenance not only helps keep heating and hot water working properly, it helps keep your tenants safe. As a second line of defence, fit an audible carbon monoxide alarm in your rented properties, but remember, this is no substitute for regular servicing of all your gas appliances.

Landlords have a legal duty to maintain gas appliances that are provided and ensure a gas safety check is carried out every 12 months, by a qualified Gas Safe registered engineer. A copy of the Landlord Gas Safety Record must also be provided to the tenant(s).

Gas Safe have put together guidance factsheets for landlords and tenants. They set out landlord responsibilities and explain everything your tenants need to know when it comes to gas safety. 

Gas Safe is the official list of gas engineers who are qualified to work safely and legally on gas appliances. By law, all gas engineers must be on the Gas Safe Register, it replaced CORGI. For further information please visit www.GasSafeRegister.co.uk/carbonmonoxide.