“Be Gas Safe” this winter – more partners needed to help save lives and raise awareness of carbon monoxide

A life-saving carbon monoxide awareness programme has been extended to cover further areas of England and Wales.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) and Gas Safe Charity have renewed calls for organisations to register their interest in becoming local partners for the Be Gas Safe programme (www.carbonmonoxidesafety.org.uk), which raises awareness of the “silent killer” carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.

The programme, which is now entering its third year, has so far distributed over 7,500 CO alarms across the UK for use by high risk groups - particularly families with young children and older people - along with 75,000 I’m Staying Gas Safe leaflets. To date, there are more than 40 local partnerships onboard, from Devon and Somerset in the south to Durham and Darlington in the north, with further partnerships operating in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. These partners include local authorities, fire services, housing agencies, and voluntary and charity sector organisations.

Numerous lives have been saved since the programme was launched in 2011. In Monmouthshire, Wales, an older couple were alerted to the presence of CO fumes in their home after reading a Be Gas Safe CO advice letter. Michael and Margaret Ayre, aged 80 and 78, from Chepstow, had been experiencing the symptoms of CO poisoning for some time, but they did not consider that they were being poisoned until they received the letter about gas safety by Care and Repair Monmouthshire as part of the Be Gas Safe programme.

Mrs Ayre said: “We had been waking up feeling sick and dizzy for a while but we just put it down to our age.”

The couple phoned Care and Repair Monmouthshire and were advised to contact their gas supplier. Within an hour, an engineer had detected that CO was leaking from a boiler.

Mrs Ayre said that the consequences of not phoning would have been “very serious” and hopes that the couple’s story will help to save other people’s lives.

RoSPA would like to hear from potential partners from across England and Wales who are interested in helping to deliver the programme before the deadline of November 30. They will receive the following free of charge:

• A briefing pack containing information about how to run a local Be Gas Safe programme
• Up to 100 CO detectors for distribution to vulnerable clients
• 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 this programme is the 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.

Ashley Martin, RoSPA’s public health programme manager, said: “As we prepare to enter the winter period, many people will begin to switch on their heating to fight off the cold. Carbon monoxide is known as the ‘silent killer’ because you cannot see it, taste it or smell it - this is why steps need to be taken to reduce the risk.

“We look forward to hearing from potential partners across England and Wales who would like to get involved with the programme which is making a difference in helping to save lives and reduce injuries.”

More information and an application form are available to download from the Be Gas Safe website - www.carbonmonoxidesafety.org.uk. Completed forms must be submitted by November 30. Alternatively, email amartin@rospa.com.

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.
To reduce the risk of CO poisoning:
• 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
• Consult your fuel supplier or professional heating engineer for the regular servicing of other fuel-burning appliances
• Rooms should be well ventilated and chimneys or flues swept regularly
• Fit an audible CO alarm, but remember this should be in addition to the other actions
• Know the signs of CO poisoning, which include: in your family (particularly children and the elderly, and maybe even your pets) - prolonged flu-like symptoms; 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.
*Figures quoted by the Department of Health (www.dh.gov.uk/health/2011/11/co-poisoning/).



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