John Cook, his wife Audrey, daughter Maureen and their pet dog all died after inhaling CO fumes from a faulty gas heater. At the levels of carbon monoxide present the rescue services believe they would have been overcome in minutes most likely unaware of the danger posed by the odourless and invisible gas.
Carbon Monoxide poisoning is all too common and literally hundreds of fatalities are recorded each year. Despite a number of Carbon Monoxide awareness campaigns over the past years the message is clearly not getting through. Part of the problem is that many do not realise there is a danger present until it is too late which begs the question what more can be done?
The awareness campaigns concentrate on encouraging preventive measures by home owners including ensuring carbon fuel based heaters and cookers are serviced regularly and carbon monoxide detector alarms are fitted in at risk premises. This approach only goes a small way to tackling the issue. Heating boilers and appliances can fail at any time – quite literally days after a service. Tenants and temporary residents of holiday lets are unlikely to fit CO alarms placing the onus on landlords and caravan site owners who without enforceable legislation have no real incentive.
For tragedies like the deaths in Camborne to be avoided it needs proactive action by our legislators similar to the very successful scheme operated by many fire and rescue services that provides free fire safety checks and grants for smoke alarms to householders.
In my opinion all landlords and operators of holiday residential parks should be required to install Carbon Monoxide Alarms if the premises utilise carbon fuel appliances. Such a requirement should be implicit within the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order. All new oil, gas and solid fuel central heating installations should have carbon monoxide alarms fitted as standard enforced by a formal industry backed code of practice.
In addition surely it is common sense to require manufacturers of solid and carbon fuel based heating boilers and cookers to fit integral Carbon Monoxide detectors to their products linked to an automatic shut off valve.
I am no fan of petty health and safety regulation but when it comes to the prevention of Carbon Monoxide poisoning the existing legislative safeguards seem wholly inadequate.