Stay safe from carbon monoxide

A timely reminder has been issued by the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI) over the potential dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning whilst away from the home.

HSENI says that carbon monoxide is usually associated with domestic fossil fuel burning appliances, but with the Easter holidays fast approaching, everyone should be aware that in holiday homes, caravans and on board boats, faulty gas cookers, appliances or petrol powered generators can also lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.

Carbon monoxide poisoning can also occur when people bring gas and charcoalbarbecues into tents and other small enclosed spaces, sometimes in an attempt to keep warm.

HSENI’s head of major hazards Richard Meredith said: “When you are camping, boating, caravanning or just lighting up the barbecue, be aware of the dangers of carbon monoxide and remember to follow our advice to help keep you and your family safe.”

He urged: “As we move into spring and look forward to summer, remember that carbon monoxide can be just as deadly away from the home.”

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

· Read the manufacturer’s instructions

· Never take a smouldering or lit barbecue into a tent, caravan or cabin - even if you have finished cooking

· Never use a barbecue inside to keep you warm

· Never leave a lit barbecue unattended or while sleeping

· Remember the signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning: headaches, dizziness, breathlessness, nausea, collapse and loss of consciousness – if concerned, seek medical advice.

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 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 don’t use it

As an added precaution, HSENI says that 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 carbon minoxide alarms fitted for a number of years now. However, these 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, please contact the HSENI helpline on: 0800 0320 121 or visit: www.hseni.gov.uk/watchout