Health and Safety Executive (UK)

Carbon monoxide - will you wake up?

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Source: Health and Safety Executive (UK)

Students living in digs are being urged to make sure they aren't putting their lives in danger by making sure their accommodation has life-saving audible carbon monoxide (CO) alarms fitted.

Every year 15 to 20 people die from carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning in the UK and 234 suffered major injuries last year alone. The Health and Safety Executive is launching a new campaign in the South West to make parents, landlords and students aware of the dangers of carbon monoxide.

Plymouth-based HSE Inspector, Helena Allum, said: 'Carbon monoxide is a silent, odourless but deadly killer and the simple processing of fitting an audible alarm could save lives.

'We want students to make sure they're safe when living in digs by ensuring alarms are fitted.

'If you are living in rented accommodation your landlord has a duty to have any gas appliance that they own regularly serviced by a Gas Safe Register engineer and issue you with a copy of the gas safety certificate following the annual safety check. Contact HSE if your landlord does not, on request, provide you with a copy of the certificate.'

Dave Worswick, whose 15-year-old daughter, Mary Ann, died of CO poisoning while visiting a friend's house, is also backing the campaign.

'If parents do care for the welfare of their children when they move into rented accommodation they should make sure they or their children see a copy of the property's gas safety certificate and make sure there is an alarm. It is a small price to pay for peace of mind which could save a life.'

In addition to a hard-hitting poster and leaflet campaign on Devon and Cornwall's main campus sites, the HSE are also working with university accommodation offices, landlord organisations and student unions to make sure students pick-up the CO message.

Helena Allum added: 'The six main symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are headaches, dizziness, nausea, breathlessness, collapse and loss of consciousness and these could easily be confused with food poisoning, viral infections, flu or simple tiredness.

'If you feel these symptoms you should seek medical advice from your GP or a hospital accident and emergency department straightaway.

'Landlords should provide an annual Gas Safety Record for all appliances and you should ensure your landlord uses a Gas Safe Registered engineer to do any gas work in your home.'

Marian Hayes, University of Plymouth Student Accommodation Manager, said: 'The University of Plymouth is pleased to be supporting this campaign. All private landlords on the university registered lists have to produce annual Gas Safety Certificates and we would encourage all our students living in private accommodation to be aware of how to safeguard themselves and their housemates.'

The HSE also advises:

  • Never use a gas appliance if you think it is not working properly. Danger signs include a flickering yellow or orange flame, sooting around your fire or boiler or the pilot light keeps going out.
  • Do not be tempted to use the cooker to supplement your heating. Cookers are not designed for that purpose and several tragic accidents have arisen from such misuse.

Peter Eldridge, chief executive of Gas Safe Register, who supports the campaign, said: 'Students often don't know if the gas appliances in their accommodation are safe to use or not, and this makes them particularly vulnerable to carbon monoxide poisoning.

'Legally, landlords must make sure gas appliances in rental properties are safe, and give their student renters a copy of the gas safety certificate to prove it. As an added measure, it's good practice to fit an audible carbon monoxide alarm too. But, if students know this, and the signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide to look out for, it could save their lives.'

As part of the campaign, British Gas are giving away 200 CO detectors free-of-charge to students through the HSE.

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