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C is for Carbon Monoxide - The Silent Killer

C is for Carbon Monoxide – The Silent Killer


Carbon Monoxide is a deadly gas produced from carbon based fuels such oil, wood, gas and coal. You can’t see it, you can’t smell it, you can’t taste it, it has no colour and yet it can be deadly!

For the safe use of such fuels they need a constant supply of fresh air and an effective flue to carry the poisonous gas to the outside atmosphere. Failure to provide an adequate flue can result in this poisonous gas spilling back in to the living areas, and cause illness or even fatalities. Figures show around 30 people each year die of CO poisoning. In reality, it could be that many more die of these symptoms which are not readily recognised by the medical profession.

Every year you should have your car serviced and in the same way it is vitally important and common sense to ensure the safe working to gas central heating boilers. It is a legal requirement for a landlord to ensure these boilers and indeed all gas appliances are working in a safe manner, by having them safety checked annually by a qualified GAS SAFE engineer. It is illegal for anyone other than a qualified engineer to carry our safety checks on appliances in rental properties. Heavy fines can be imposed by The Health & Safety Executive if landlords fail to have these annual safety checks completed. A landlord can also be held liable for prosecution and fines in these circumstances. Landlords may also be prevented from evicting a problem tenant if they do not get a gas safety certificate.

  1. Look for gas flames burning a shade of orange instead of blue.
  2. Look for sooty or black stains on appliances or on the wall immediately above the appliance ,
  3. Look for your tenants suffering prolonged flu like symptoms.

The diagram below shows the physical symptoms and effects of  carbon monoxide.

These warning signs must not be ignored. Your tenant should be advised not to use the gas appliance and your gas engineer should be asked to visit as soon as possible.

Landlords are legally required to place a CO alarm in every room with a solid fuel source. This means wood fires, coal fires, etc but not gas or liquid fuels like oil. If the landlord provides a detector it must be in full working order. If it is not then the landlord would be liable for any Gas Safety issues.

As CO is lighter/less dense than air, when CO leaks into a room it fills the room from the ceiling down. It naturally follows the CO detector should be installed above head height, typically above a door frame.

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