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Cookers now more deadly than boilers

More than 40 per cent of carbon monoxide -related fatalities in 2009 were caused by problems with gas cooker appliances – overtaking boilers as the number one cause of CO-linked deaths.

Seven of the 17 fatalities caused by CO poisoning across Great Britain between 1 July 2008 and 30 June 2009 were associated with cooker appliances, the highest number recorded since 2000/01.

Nigel Dumbrell, manager of The Corgi Trust – the registered charitable body for improving gas safety – said: “This is higher than the fatality rate associated with boilers and therefore an area of huge concern.”

There were a total of 10 serious gas cooker-related incidents reported during the 12-month period.

Mr Dumbrell said: “In 2007/8 there was only one incident reported with a cooker, whereas in 2008/9 there were 10, the highest number since DIDR records began in July 1996.”

According to the report, there were six fatalities relating to boiler use but 22 serious incidents.

The figures were released last week as part of the trust’s 13th annual benchmarking report.
An analysis of the causes of incidents revealed concerns such as a lack of servicing – specified in 25 per cent of the cases – flue and terminal positioning, and the fitting or seal between flues and appliances.

Mr Dumbrell said: “The report therefore recommends urgent attention is given to enhance cooker safety and that the potential dangers of cooker misuse are more widely advertised among manufacturers, gas installers, double glazing installers, building alteration approval officers and the general public.”

Over the 12-month reporting period, 17 deaths and 96 injuries in 56 incidents were  confirmed to be CO poisoning linked to mains natural gas.

Reacting to the findings of the report, customer services director at boiler specialist Baxi Group Lee Robinson said: “The heating industry and Gas Safe Register have been working hard to raise awareness of illegal gas workers and stamp out the cowboys.

“We must keep raising standards and educate consumers on the dangers of employing registere
gas workers for home installations. By continuing to work together in a systematic way, I’m sure we can reduce the risk even further.”

In November the Health and Safety Executive and Gas Safe, the agency governing the registration of gas workers, launched a new campaign to crackdown on unregistered gas workers.

Recent prosecutions include a gas fitter from West Yorkshire who has been given a suspended 17-week jail sentence and 150 hours community service for carrying out illegal work last summer.

Meanwhile, the Heating and Hot Water Industry Council was keen to promote the use of carbon monoxide alarms, but emphasised the importance of correct installation.

Deputy chief executive Roger Webb said: “Safety must be paramount and that is why we recommend that a carbon monoxide detector is fitted into a room containing a gas appliance to give reassurance to consumers, but a detector should not be regarded as a substitute for correct installation and regular servicing by a competent person.”