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Posted By Discussion Topic: carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning

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Feb-10-2014 @ 2:08 PM                           Permalink
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Robert McLean
Boat Safety Scheme
First Floor North, Station House,
500 Elder Gate,
Milton Keynes, MK9 1BB
Tel: 07710 175478 / 0333 202 1000

Feb 2014     NR 001.14
BSS points boaters to important safety issues highlighted by recent boat tragedies

In the space of a few days, three people on two vessels have died from suspected carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning and the Boat Safety Scheme is pointing boat owners to its advice to help stay safe.

A man living on his narrowboat in Banbury died along with his pet dog and two fishermen have been found dead aboard their vessel in Whitby harbour.

In the context of the initial reports that these people may have died from carbon monoxide poisoning, boat skippers and crews are being strongly encouraged to take stock and ensure that they are properly protected against the threat from the extremely toxic gas.

CO is a colourless, odourless gas – often dubbed the ‘Silent Killer’ – and can kill quickly if inhaled in high concentrations. The early symptoms of poisoning are similar to flu or food poisoning, and include headaches, nausea and dizziness.

CO poisoning is a significant threat when sufficient heating and electrical power is difficult to maintain for people aboard boats on the inland waterways especially where the use of heaters and generators rises particularly in the colder, darker months.

Any fuel burning equipment can be a potential source of CO including stoves, gas appliances and any engine exhaust.

The Boat Safety Scheme warns that CO build-up in boat cabins can occur with any one or a mix of these factors:
•     with faulty, badly maintained or misused appliances
•     exhaust fumes from a boat's engine or generator
•     escaped flue gases from solid fuel stoves
•     blocked ventilation or short supply of air - fuels need the right amount of oxygen to burn safely
Boat Safety Scheme advice on avoiding a carbon monoxide incident is to:
•     Install fuel burning appliances properly
•     Maintain appliances and engines routinely
•     Use the equipment correctly
•     Don't allow engine fumes into the cabin space
•     Deal with problems immediately
•     Don't allow bodged repairs and maintenance
•     Install a CO alarm certified to as meeting BS EN 50291-2
•     Test the alarm routinely
•     Never remove the batteries
•     Know the signs of CO poisoning and how to react
Continues …
Graham Watts, manager of the Boat Safety Scheme said:
‘Over a million people go boating safely each year including thousands of people who live aboard on the inland waterways, but our reminder to crews and skippers is to treat the risks with due respect.

He added:
‘Prevention is the key to staying safe, equipment needs to be properly installed, well maintained and used according to the instructions.

‘But CO can occur or be made worse when ventilators are blocked, or fresh air is in short supply – burning fuels need the right amount of oxygen to combust safely.

‘Our belt and braces advice is to fit a CO alarm approved as meeting BS EN 50291-2; these are best suited for boats.

CO alarms and/or their batteries should be replaced if they do not work when tested, or if the replacement date marked on the alarm has passed.

The All Party Parliamentary Carbon Monoxide Group (APPCOG) is also urging boaters to follow Boat Safety Scheme advice, which will help protect boaters from dying or being seriously injured from the noxious gas.

Supporting the BSS message, APPCOG chair Barry Sheerman MP, said:

‘Yet again we have been given a tragic reminder that carbon monoxide poisoning poses a deadly threat not only in the home, but in a variety of settings, not least on boats and in other vehicles.

‘My condolences go to the families of the deceased and I implore all boat owners and operators to urgently take the necessary steps to ensure their vessels are fully protected against the threat of CO poisoning.

‘If you are in any doubt about what to do, visit the Boat Safety Scheme website, where you’ll find clear and helpful guidelines on how to make your boat CO safe.’

The BSS has the latest advice for boaters on – Don’t let CO ruin your life.

Feb-10-2014 @ 4:49 PM                           Permalink
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Please please please fit a CO detector and in the correct place.

After our fire the CO detector we purchased the next day went off immediately I fitted it the day after the fire. It continued to go off for about an hour after we had opened all the windows and doors too.

CO is lighter than oxygen so fills up vessels from the top down, you won't know until it's too late.

Fit a detector now, don't delay....

Life is too short


Forum Girly Swot 11.02.2011

Feb-10-2014 @ 5:11 PM                           Permalink
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Mardles sometimes
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As a Gas Safe registered engineer I thoroughly endorse what has been said.

I would add that a smoke detector can be a lifesaver too.

My boat has co, smoke and gas detectors fitted. Belt and braces? You bet!

Steve. CM1

Feb-11-2014 @ 10:02 AM                           Permalink
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Harnser Trainer
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Brilliant has both, oddly though, home did not! Smoke, yes, CO no, but they both do now. Smile

Best wishes,


Once we were Rondonay, now we
are simply Brilliant!

Bittern Code 65

Feb-11-2014 @ 10:45 AM                           Permalink
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In my opinion, you need a Carbon Monoxide detector, smoke alarm, and if you have gas, then a gas alarm. I'm not sure if these would pick up petrol fumes or not!

They should all be active when you are on board.
The problem is with a smoke detector, in such a confined space, ours often goes off when doing toast or tea cakes.

The next important point is where to place them, and I also include at what height.

Gas being heavier than air, means that the sensor should be quite low, the smoke alarms should be quite high, but not close to the side or a corner. If stuck for headroom, then the ceiling can be tricky.

The Carbon monoxide alarm... I am a bit unsure, mine is about 18 " from the roof on a bulkhead ! I'm running out of wall space to put things, with fire blankets, fire extinguishers and alarms etc.

The gas detector has never needed to go off, I have tested it with a whiff of butane from a gas lighter canister, the smoke alarm is regularly tested,  usually when breakfast is ready lol,  the CO alarm, sometimes if we have a following wind, and the canopy is down, some of the outboard exhaust fumes make their way into the cabin.
This was quite a shock at the time, but doesn't happen when the canopy is up, so clearly it is drifting upwards, and then forwards.
I have found that these CO detectors are very sensitive, and alarm well before any serious levels are reached, but again, cannot be ignored.

Always carry spare batteries, and test them at the start of each visit.
Some of the alarms have a limited life, especially the CO detector, so check dates too.

These detectors are so cheap too.

Also, don't forget a CO detector at home, maybe one by each combusting appliance, ie gas fire, wood burner, coal fire etc

Maybe a gas detector in the same room as your gas boiler.
Aldi and Lidl often have mains powered or 12volt DC versions of these.
With modern insulation, and modern draft proof windows, it is easy to build up these gasses in confined spaces.

In the "olden days" we had single glazed windows, often sash type, with a gap you could post letters through, doors that mice could get under, and a chimney in most rooms with a coal fire pulling black soot laden air through all the gaps.
To wake up with no central heating, with icy fern like structures coating the inside windows. If you had only an outside loo, then if you had a potty under the bed, then that could be frozen too.
So I was told... honest.. lol

The bed covered in several layers of heavy blankets, that felt like you'd been buried alive.

Those were the days.

best regards, Richard.
I can't wait to be back on the Broads.

Feb-11-2014 @ 2:29 PM                           Permalink
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With regards to Smoke Detection many of the toast and pork chops under the grill can be eliminated by paying the extra for an "Optical Smoke Detector" most ordinary smoke detectors are of the "Ionisation Type" which are particle sensitive. Also because of their radioactive source ionisation detectors are really not to be recommended as they are not high enough above your head when mounted in a cabin. Ionisation have not been used in civil aviation for many years because of the aforementioned.

Captain Howe.

The Eagle may soar majestic,
but you don't suck a Stoat
into your jet engines.
Please leave the water and
banks as you would wish to
find them.

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