With gas boilers predicted to continue as the UK's most popular means of heat generation for the next decade, the topic of gas safety looks set to remain high on the agenda for domestic, commercial and industrial users for many years.
While there have been numerous advances in both technology - making equipment safer to use -and levels of understanding, there still remains much work to be completed to reach a point where we can confidently state that everything is in place to provide a gas safe environment for all users.
Supporting evidence for that last statement is all around us, from the reports of prosecutions following illegal and/or unsafe installations, to the continuing announcements of people suffering from the effects of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Although industry bodies, associations and charitable organisations continue to make considerable efforts to both raise awareness of the need to handle gas supplies and appliances in the correct manner and also remind installers and contractors of the need to comply with the relevant legislation, there continues to be a number of people who don't - or won't - listen to the message.
Part of the problem originates from the number of unregistered installers who continue to fit equipment despite the fact they are unqualified to do so, presumably cheaper installation prices with some no doubt working on a cash basis to avoid being noticed by the authorities. Comparing the number of boilers sold in the UK with the number of installations that are actually recorded by the Gas Safe Register provides a good picture of the scale of the problem.
There have been numerous suggestions as to how to restrict the sale of boilers to qualified professionals to reduce the numbers of unregistered installations and raise gas safety to more acceptable levels. The best proposal I've seen suggested that buyers should be required to show their Gas Safe Register membership details before the purchase of any relevant equipment.
We all have to provide evidence before buying items such as cars, etc, to prove that we are eligible to own these items, so why not extend this to gas boilers, as they are proven to be highly dangerous when not installed correctly?
Perhaps there should be more emphasis on the effects of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning to raise levels of awareness of the need to treat any gas appliance with the necessary level of caution. There have certainly been sufficient reports on those who have died over the years, although little consideration has been given for the long-term effects this may have on those who survive a CO poisoning incident.
Another issue is that those experiencing CO poisoning may be misdiagnosed by the medical profession, as there are no procedures in place to test for this unless doctors have good reason to suspect that exposure to CO is a cause of their illness. Although figures relating to the number of deaths and CO poisoning incidents are published annually, how can we be sure that the actual figures are not significantly higher?
Charitable organisations including the Katie Haines Memorial Trust and CO Awareness were launched following the tragic experiences of the founders, who lost members of their close family to CO poisoning. They continue to work with the industry to drive home the message that gas safety should be a major area of concentration for all premises where gas equipment is used.
We can all assist with this message by checking that all our family members, friends and acquaintances within our social network understand that gas-fired appliances have to be correctly installed and maintained by suitably qualified professionals.
Further to this, the fitting of CO alarms can also help to ensure that the likelihood of tragedies occurring is significantly reduced.
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