Watch out for carbon monoxide this Easter!

  • 17th April 2014
  • admin

As the Easter break approaches, the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI) is reminding the public of the potential dangers of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning away from the home.

While CO is usually associated with domestic fossil fuel burning appliances, incidents and fatalities can also occur in caravans and on board boats where faulty gas cookers, appliances or petrol powered generators have led to carbon monoxide poisoning.

CO has also been linked to deaths where people have brought gas and charcoal BBQs into tents and other small enclosed spaces, sometimes in an attempt to keep warm.

Urging everyone to be alert to the dangers of CO at all times, HSENI’s Head of Major Hazards Richard Meredith said: “I hope everyone gets to enjoy our beautiful countryside and waterways this Easter – and in the warmer seasons ahead. But, please remember that carbon monoxide can be just as deadly outside the home. So, when you are caravanning, camping, boating, or just lighting up the barbecue, be aware of its dangers and follow our top tips to help keep you and your family safe from carbon monoxide poisoning.”

Follow this advice when using a BBQ, whether it’s a disposable one, gas or charcoal:

  • read the manufacturer’s instructions;
  • never take a smouldering or lit BBQ into a tent, caravan or cabin – even if you are finished cooking;
  • never use a BBQ inside to keep you warm;
  • never leave a BBQ unattended or while sleeping;
  • remember the signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning:
    • headaches;
    • dizziness;
    • breathlessness;
    • nausea;
    • collapse and loss of consciousness;

If you’re using gas camping equipment follow these extra tips to help you stay safe:

  • read the manufacturer’s instructions
  • never take a gas stove, light or heater into a tent, caravan or cabin unless it is a permanent fixture, installed and maintained correctly;
  • check that the appliance is in good order, undamaged and that hoses are properly attached and undamaged – if in doubt get the hoses replaced or do not use it;

As an added back-up precaution, you should also install an audible carbon monoxide alarm in your caravan, holiday home or boat – these are widely available in supermarkets and DIY stores.

Some of you may have CO alarms fitted for a number of years now. However, CO alarms have a limited life span, so please check yours to see if they are working properly – it might be time to buy new ones.

Often referred to as the ‘silent killer’, carbon monoxide is odourless, colourless and tasteless and in high concentrations can be fatal in a matter of minutes.

Aside from death, there is also a real risk to health from lower levels of carbon monoxide. Unfortunately, symptoms can often be difficult to diagnose as they mimic those of other common illnesses such as flu and headaches.

To find out more about the dangers of carbon monoxide, contact the HSENI helpline on: 0800 0320 121 or visit: