Dangers highlighted for Carbon Monoxide Awareness Month

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In conjunction with Carbon Monoxide Awareness Month, which has been running throughout November, OFTEC, which represents the domestic oil heating and cooking industry in Ireland, is warning householders of the dangers of solid and multi-fuel stoves after an increasing number of incidents across the country this year.

There has been major growth in the sales of stoves in recent years, yet many people are unaware of the connection between Carbon Monoxide and fossil fuels, including home heating oil.

On the back of Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week, which ran from September 21-27in the Republic of Ireland, research found only 50% of consumers are aware of the potential risk with oil heating and just 40% for coal.

With trendy stoves becoming an increasingly popular feature in the home, OFTEC is warning householders of the dangers associated with solid fuel stoves, including carbon monoxide poisoning, and urging the public to take sensible precautions.

David Blevings, OFTEC Ireland Manager, said: “Whilst solid fuel stoves have fast become a trendy centre-piece in the homes of many families, people need to be aware of the dangers and ensure they are installed and maintained correctly.

“If a flue is installed incorrectly this can lead to a fire starting in the attic or a carbon monoxide leak into the property with potentially deathly consequences.

“Like all fuel burning appliances, they should only be installed by a competent person and then serviced at least once a year for optimum safety and peace of mind.”

Mr Blevings said OFTEC technicians are now increasingly being called upon to install and service solid fuel appliances and in response, the organisation has set up a training and assessment course which is available through local training centres.

“We are also establishing a new solid fuel register of qualified heating technicians and installers clearly detailing those who have been specifically trained to safely install and maintain solid and multi-fuel stoves. The benefit to householders is that in one simple visit, they can ensure all of their heating appliances are safely checked and serviced,” Mr Blevings said.

He added: “It is very important that householders understand the importance of checking their home heating systems annually and ensuring that boilers aren’t just being cleaned but serviced correctly by a qualified technician. When conducting a boiler service, OFTEC technicians use a flue gas analyser as standard, which gives you an efficiency rating for your boiler, but more importantly checks for carbon monoxide spillage.

“A ‘boiler clean’ will not protect you or your family from a potential carbon monoxide threat and it is crucial that homeowners are aware of the benefit of using a registered technician for regular servicing and peace of mind.”

The trade body is working to highlight this issue during the annual Carbon Monoxide Awareness Month; a public safety initiative organised by the Health and Safety Executive Northern Ireland and supported by organisations within the private and public sector.

Richard Meredith, Chair of the CO Safety Group and Head of Gas Safety at The Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland, said: “We are delighted that OFTEC is continuing to support this initiative, which is now in its third year, to highlight the dangers of carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide can kill and even low-level exposure over a long period can cause lasting damage to your health.”

“We would agree with OFTEC’s advice for consumers to ensure all fuel burning appliances - such as heaters, boilers and cookers – are serviced at least annually by a registered engineer. And, all chimneys and flues should be inspected annually and swept, if required, by a registered technician. As an additional precaution, you should also install an audible carbon monoxide alarm.”

“The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are often difficult to diagnose as it mimics the symptoms of other common illnesses such as flu and headaches. Everyone should be aware of its dangers and know what measures to take to protect themselves and others.”

For more information and Carbon Monoxide Awareness advice visit: http://watchout.hseni.gov.uk/