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RoSPA and Gas Safe charity launch major CO awareness programme

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents and Gas Safe Charity are launching a major new programme to raise awareness of carbon monoxide

The programme will see 10,000 families receiving a free CO detector and many more receiving safety information.

The “Be Gas Safe” programme ( aims to make people aware of the dangers of carbon monoxide (CO) and the steps that can be taken to prevent CO poisoning, such as the need for regular servicing of fuel-burning appliances, good ventilation and the use of audible CO detectors.

Organisations that have regular and direct contact with key risk groups (particularly families with young children and older people) are now being sought to become local partners to help deliver the programme across England. Priority will be given to organisations in areas where there has been a higher incidence of carbon monoxide poisoning per head of population.

Each year in England and Wales, there are approximately 50 accidental deaths, 200 non-fatal poisonings that require hospital admission and 4,000 visits to A&E that result from CO poisoning*. Children and older people are particularly at risk.

With gas appliances and flues that have not been properly installed, maintained or ventilated known to be among the causes of CO poisoning, the key focus of the new three-year programme will be sharing information and advice about how to stay “gas safe”. Audible CO detectors will also be distributed free of charge to 10,000 families.

Les Philpott, chairman of Gas Safe Charity, said: “Gas Safe Charity is delighted to be working on this new carbon monoxide programme with the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents. Awareness of the dangers of carbon monoxide has been improving in recent years, but the number of CO poisoning cases still being recorded shows there is no room for complacency.”

Errol Taylor, RoSPA’s deputy chief executive, said: “For many years, RoSPA has raised awareness of the dangers of carbon monoxide, which is known as the ‘silent killer’ because you cannot see it, taste it or smell it. Our new partnership with Gas Safe Charity means there will be a sustained effort for a number of years to reach even more people, particularly those who are most vulnerable, with life-saving messages about the signs and symptoms of CO poisoning and the steps that can be taken to reduce the risk.”

RoSPA would like to hear from potential partner organisations interested in receiving:

  • An invitation to a briefing event highlighting gas safety issues and outlining the Be Gas Safe programme
  • A briefing pack containing information about how to run a local Be Gas Safe programme
  • Up to 100 CO detectors for distribution to vulnerable clients
  • 1,000 I’m Staying Gas Safe leaflets.  

Ashley Martin, RoSPA’s public health co-ordinator and Be Gas Safe programme manager, said: “The Be Gas Safe programme offers a great opportunity for local organisations to get involved in a really practical way in saving lives and reducing injuries.”

Organisations that are interested in taking part should visit to download an application form. Completed forms must be submitted by January 6, 2012.

Gas Safe Charity was established in 2009 by the Health and Safety Executive and Gas Safe Register, which is the official list of engineers who are qualified to work safely and legally on gas appliances.

To reduce the risk of CO poisoning:

  • For gas appliances, use an engineer registered through Gas Safe Register for installation and annual services. Always check that an engineer’s capabilities, which are listed on the back of his or her identity card, include the job you want doing. If you live in rented property, ask your landlord to show you the property’s gas safety certificate
  • Consult your fuel supplier or professional heating engineer for the regular servicing of other fuel-burning appliances
  • Rooms should be well ventilated and chimneys or flues swept regularly
  • Fit an audible CO alarm, but remember this should be in addition to the other actions
  • Know the signs of CO poisoning, which include: in your family (particularly children and the elderly, and maybe even your pets) - prolonged flu-like symptoms; gas appliances burning with orange, instead of blue, flames; sooty stains on or near appliances; excessive condensation in the room; and coal or wood fires that burn slowly or go out.

*Figures quoted by the Department of Health (