• People turning on their heating as the weather cools need to think 'gas safety'
• Around 50 people in the UK die of CO poisoning every year
• CO alarms and landlord safety checks can save lives
Turn on the heating, enjoy the warmth and forget about the cooler weather outside, says National Grid, one of the UK's largest energy companies, but don't forget it's Gas Safety Week! That means it's a very good time to make sure all of your gas appliances are working safely, before the winter weather really starts to bite.
Used properly, gas is one of the safest fuels for cooking and heating the home. But it can also be a killer. Faulty and badly maintained gas appliances – including gas cookers and central heating boilers – can produce deadly carbon monoxide (CO). And every year around 50 people die in the UK from CO poisoning, a further 200 are hospitalised and 4,000 visit hospital accident and emergency departments with the symptoms of CO poisoning.
Recognising the symptoms of CO poisoning could save your life. They include headaches, dizziness, nausea, breathlessness, eventually leading to collapse and loss of consciousness. Take particular notice if these symptoms affect all or most of the people in your home, if they improve when you're away from home but come back when you return, or if they're worse when you're cooking or when you turn up the heating.
Remember, you can't see or smell CO, so if you're even slightly worried that you may have CO poisoning, move into the fresh air immediately, and call 0800 111 999. This is the National Gas Emergency Helpline, which National Grid operates on behalf of the gas industry. If the symptoms are severe or if someone has collapsed or is unconscious, call 999 or 112 immediately.
To guard against the risk of CO poisoning, always have your gas appliances serviced annually, or at the interval recommended by the manufacturer, and always make sure you use a Gas Safe registered gas fitter to carry out the work. See www.gassaferegister.co.uk. You can also have an audible CO alarm installed in your home.
If you live in rented accommodation, there are gas safety laws to help minimise the risk of CO poisoning. Landlords of rented properties are legally required to provide their tenants with an annual gas safety certificate to confirm that a qualified gas fitter has carried out safety checks on all gas appliances in the property. Also by law, landlords have to make sure that gas appliances are regularly serviced and properly maintained.
Since it's hard to tell if CO is present in your home – it's often called the silent killer – buying a CO detector is a very good idea. They last about ten years and they cost no more than twenty pounds, which has to be something of a bargain for a gadget that could save your life!