Health & Safety

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Gas Safety and Carbon Monoxide

2 February 2011

Each year, according to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), approximately 50 people die from carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning associated with gas appliances, a figure that could be reduced if people understood the risks and took sensible precautions.

natural gas flame

Fuel gas is safe, but if appliances are not properly installed and adequately maintained by a competent installer, registered with the "Gas Safe Register" the gas may not burn properly meaning CO fumes are released.

In addition to getting appliances checked, it is also important to ensure they are used correctly. CO is produced when there is not enough air for complete burning of the fuel. Never use a gas appliance if you think it is not working properly.

Signs to look out for on boilers, fires and cookers include:

  • yellow or orange flames (except for fuel-effect fires that display this colour flame),
  • soot or stains around the appliance, and
  • a pilot light that frequently blows out.

Approved CO detectors are strongly recommended, although these must not be used as a substitute for regular checks and servicing by an installer registered with the "Gas Safe Register".

You cannot see, smell or taste CO fumes. Symptoms of CO poisoning can include tiredness, drowsiness, headaches and breathlessness. In the worst situations, CO can kill without warning in just hours - If you believe CO may be causing you problems seek urgent medical advice.

Research by the University College London commissioned by the HSE highlights the dangers of CO poisoning in people's homes, coupled with a lack of public awareness of the risks. The early findings of the research include:

  • 23% of homes had one or more defective gas appliance,
  • 8% of homes were judged to be at risk of dangerous levels of CO,
  • 45% of homes had received no information on the dangers of CO, and
  • A higher prevalence of problem appliances was found in the homes of vulnerable people (young, old, those in receipt of benefits).

The HSE advises:

  • The symptoms can be mistaken for influenza, so dont become an unwitting victim.
  • If you are becoming a tenant of rented property, ask your landlord for your gas safety certificate. He is required by law to show it to you so you know your gas appliances have been serviced annually.

If you are renting property then by law your landlord must:

  • Ensure that gas appliances, flues and associated gas pipe work etc are maintained, in a safe condition, by an installer registered with the "Gas Safe Register".
  • Have an annual safety check carried out, by an installer on the "Gas Safe Register", on each gas appliance that they own in the properties that they let.
  • Provide you with a copy of the record before you move in and within 28 days of each subsequent annual check being performed.

Tenants should:

  • Check the record to ensure it is current and, if it indicates any appliance is defective, check that remedial action has been taken or the appliance has been made safe.
  • Remember, it is your responsibility to maintain any gas appliance that you own e.g.: cooker or mobile heater.
  • If you need further advice or have doubts that the record is genuine contact the "Gas Safe Register" 0800 408 5500.
  • If a managing agent lets your property, ensure the contract stipulates who is responsible for carrying out the above checks.

Gas Fitters

  • It is unlawful for anyone to carry out gas fitting work, in domestic or commercial premises, as a business unless they are registered with the "Gas Safe Register". It is also unlawful for anyone to claim that they are registered with the "Gas Safe Register" when they are not.
  • All genuine gas fitters expect to be asked to produce their "Gas Safe Register" registration ID card before being invited into your property. The information on the card is also printed in Braille.
  • Apart from checking the identification details on the front of the card also check the expiry date to ensure the fitters registration is still current. On the back of the card check the list of work categories to ensure the fitter is competent to perform the job you need doing.

New Gas Installer Registration Scheme

Gas Safe Register logo

In 2008, the HSE announced changes to the gas installer registration scheme in Great Britain. The scheme operated by CORGI was replaced on 1 April 2009 by the "Gas Safe Register" (operated by Capita). The Gas Safe Register is the only gas installer registration scheme approved by HSE from 1 April under the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998. All gas installers wanting to undertake domestic and certain other gas work in Great Britain from 1 April 2009 will need to be registered with this scheme in order to be able lawfully to carry out any work on gas fittings, which includes gas appliances.