Nearly eight million older people could be at risk from unsafe gas appliances in the UK as Gas Safe Register reveals that three quarters of Britons have never discussed gas safety with older family members. Therefore, during this year’s Gas Safety Week (19-25 September), Gas Safe Register is urging friends and family to help older people avoid gas dangers in their homes.
Jonathan Samuel, managing director for Gas Safe Register, said: “We’re urging the nation to reach out to those who are more vulnerable when it comes to gas safety. Together, we can help prevent deaths and injuries and reduce the number of dangerous gas appliances.”
More than 260 over-65s are injured by gas appliances every year[ii], accounting for the majority (57%) of deaths from gas fire heaters at home. As a result, Gas Safe Register is providing three tips to help keep older friends and relatives gas safe at home:
Sign up for an annual gas safety check – Only 16% of people speak to their older relatives annually about gas safety. To make it easier, sign up on their behalf for an annual gas safety check reminder at www.staygassafe.co.uk.
Get savvy with CO poisoning symptoms – One in 10 (11%) over 75s has little or no knowledge of the dangers of carbon monoxide (CO) and less than half (47%) of Britons can recognise CO poisoning symptoms in their older relatives. Although CO has no smell, taste or colour, symptoms of poisoning include: headaches; dizziness; nausea; breathlessness; collapse and loss of consciousness – all of which can be mistaken for something else.
Recognise unsafe gas appliance signs – Just over half of Britons (53%) know the signs of unsafe gas appliances, which include: a lazy yellow flame instead of a crisp blue flame; soot or staining on or around the appliance; excess condensation in the room.
Mark Jones, Station Manager, Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service, recalls a recent call-out handled by his team:
“Recently a man in his 80s was found by his stepson collapsed on his bedroom floor. His stepson called an ambulance and, on arrival, paramedics immediately removed the man from the property, taking him to hospital to be treated for suspected carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.
“We were called to investigate and our crews entered the property using breathing apparatus that monitored the CO levels within the property. The detector registered 650 parts per million (ppm), which is an extremely high and dangerous level that can potentially be fatal within minutes. The gas supply was isolated and the property ventilated.
“The man is very lucky to be alive. Although older people are at particular risk from the effects of CO poisoning, it is an indiscriminate killer and can be fatal to anyone. This is not an isolated incident – similar cases have resulted in fatalities that could potentially have been avoided if people had fitted a CO alarm in their property and had an annual safety check carried out by a Gas Safe Registered engineer.”
Gas Safe Register investigations find around one in six gas appliances are unsafe, with half of the gas fireplaces investigated found to be dangerous.
Worryingly, older people are half as likely (6%) as other age groups (15%) to have a gas installation or service carried out by a professional to ensure their gas appliances are safe. Make sure they know to ‘Trust the Triangle’ by asking to see their engineer’s Gas Safe ID card and checking it to make sure the engineer is covered to check or fit the appliance in question.