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Friday, 5 October 2012

Gas safety at home

A poorly-maintained gas appliance can cause carbon monoxide poisoning. Learn more about the symptoms of this and how to prevent it. Find out what your rights and responsibilities for gas safety are as a tenant, landlord or homeowner.

Gas Safe Register

Gas Safe Register replaced Corgi as the organisation responsible for gas safety in Great Britain in 2009.

To find a Gas Safe registered engineer visit the Gas Safe website or call 0800 408 5500.

How carbon monoxide poisoning happens

Every year, about 20 people die from carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning caused by gas systems that haven’t been properly installed or maintained. Many others also suffer ill health.

When gas or other fossil fuels, like coal, wood or oil, don’t burn properly, too much CO is produced, which is poisonous. You can't see it, taste it or smell it, but CO can kill quickly, without warning.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning

Carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms can develop very quickly or over a number of days or months

The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include:

  • a headache – this is the most common symptom
  • feeling sick and dizzy
  • feeling tired and confused
  • being sick and having stomach pain
  • shortness of breath and difficulty breathing

Symptoms can develop very quickly or over a number of days or months, depending on how much CO is in the air.

For the full symptoms of CO poisoning, see the NHS Choices website.

If you have carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms

If you think you have carbon monoxide poisoning, you should:

  • switch off all your gas appliances and don’t use them again until the problem has been fixed
  • shut off the gas supply at the meter control valve – if gas continues to escape, call the Gas Emergency Freephone Number on 0800 111 999 
  • open the windows and doors to ventilate the room – and don’t sleep in it
  • see your doctor at once 
  • call a Gas Safe registered engineer to check all your gas appliances

How to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning

The installation, repair and servicing of any gas appliance should be done by a Gas Safe registered engineer

The best way to protect yourself is to have all gas and fossil fuel appliances and flues/chimneys serviced regularly by a Gas Safe registered engineer.

You should also:

  • make sure there’s enough fresh air in the room containing your gas appliance
  • ensure chimneys/flues aren’t blocked and vents aren’t covered
  • get your chimney swept from top to bottom at least once a year by a qualified sweep

Carbon monoxide alarms

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) strongly recommends using audible CO alarms – but only as a useful back-up precaution. They aren’t a substitute for proper installation and maintenance of gas appliances.

Make sure the alarm meets British Standard EN50291 and ideally the British Standard Kitemark. You should install, check and service CO alarms according to the manufacturer's instructions.

CO alarms are available from DIY and hardware stores.

Landlords: gas safety responsibilities

If you’re a landlord and use a managing agent, you still have overall responsibility for making sure gas safety duties are met.

As a landlord, you’re responsible for the safety of your tenants. You should:

  • ensure installation pipe work, appliances and flues provided for tenants are maintained in a safe condition
  • get repairs carried out by a Gas Safe registered engineer
  • ensure a gas safety check is carried out on each appliance and/or flue provided for tenants annually, or within one year of a new gas appliance being installed
  • keep the record of each safety check – called a landlord’s gas safety record or certificate – for two years
  • give a copy of the landlord’s gas safety record to each existing tenant within 28 days of the check, and to any new tenant before they move in 
  • ensure all gas equipment (including any appliance left by a previous tenant) is safe or removed before re-letting 
  • if a managing agent is used, make sure the management contract says who will arrange maintenance and safety checks and keep records

All maintenance, annual gas safety checks and other work on gas appliances, fittings and flues should be carried out by a Gas Safe registered engineer.

Tenants: gas safety rights and responsibilities

Your landlord is responsible for checking gas safety in the property once a year and maintaining gas appliances and/or flues. You should allow access to the property for this.

The work must be done by a Gas Safe registered engineer. The landlord should give you a copy of the certificate after the check.

Contact your landlord if you want to see a safety check record.

Homeowners: gas safety responsibilities

As a homeowner, you have a responsibility to yourself and the residents in your home to ensure gas appliances and flues are safe.

It’s recommended that you regularly maintain and service all gas appliances and/or flues. This work must be carried out by a Gas Safe registered engineer, as must any other gas work.

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