Carbon monoxide poisoning – do you know the dangers?

Gordon Samuel from the Katie Haines Memorial Trust, talks about the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning and how you can prevent it…

Katie Haines and dad Gordon Samuel. Photo credit GARETH JOHN DAVIES

Katie Haines and dad Gordon Samuel. Photo credit GARETH JOHN DAVIES

I’m passionate about raising awareness of accidental carbon monoxide poisoning because we lost our 31 year old daughter Katie to this deadly gas that you can’t see, smell or taste – it’s known as ‘the silent killer’.

On 18th February 2010, a month after returning from her honeymoon, Katie returned home from work at Oxford University where she was a press Officer. The gas central heating was on; she turned on the TV, fed Charlie the cat and ran a bath.  Her husband Richard called to say he’d be home soon.  She suggested staying home with a Thai dinner and asked Richard to stop at the supermarket.

When he got home, carrying groceries, he rang the bell – no answer!  He used his key and found the cat unconscious in the hall. He ran to the bathroom where he found Katie in the bath.

She had been overcome by toxic CO fumes from a malfunctioning gas boiler. She presumably tried to stand and collapsed into the bath, seriously knocking her head on the side of the bath and effectively drowning – she had 37% of CO in her bloodstream; Richard unsuccessfully tried to resuscitate her and got 20% poisoning but fortunately without lasting damage to his health.

Illegal gas fitters

Every year there are an estimated 1.1million rogue jobs completed by illegal gas fitters in the UK, putting households at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning, gas leaks, fires and explosions.

From the rogue jobs that the Gas Safe Register investigated, 3 in 5 are left in unsafe condition and 1 in 5 appliances were deemed so dangerous they had to be disconnected immediately.

Carbon Monoxide affects all ages, the most vulnerable being the elderly and the young. Now, for the first time we are seeing emerging technologies providing us with new ways to help stamp out rogue gas fitters, such as the Gas Tag system that checks engineers Gas Safe credentials in real-time.

Alarmingly, it is reported that CO poisoning is on the rise this year with over 500 cases identified in under 18s. So now, more than ever, it’s vitally important to get your appliances checked by a correctly qualified, competent Gas Safe Registered Engineer.

Be CO aware. Take action now:

  • Buy an audible Carbon Monoxide alarm – most audible CO alarms are battery operated, so you can take them with you if you move home or go on holiday. They last 5-7 years. Audible alarms typically cost around £20, and can be bought at DIY stores, plumbing & heating shops or online. They can also be installed by your energy supplier.
  • Make sure you have a gas safety certificate for all gas appliances, fittings and flues. Landlords are legally obliged to provide an up-to-date Gas Safety Certificate.
  • Never use a gas, oil or solid fuel appliance if you think it is not working properly.
  • Never cover an appliance or block air vents, grilles, flues or air bricks.
  • Get your gas, oil, or solid fuel appliances checked every 12 months by a registered Gas Safe, HETAS or OFTEC engineer, recognisable by one of the logo’s below:

                     OFTEC-Logo                      Gas-Safe-Logo


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