New gas safety report finds a 50% greater risk in private rented property

A new report on gas safety has been published by the Gas Safety Trust, an organisation dedicated to raising awareness of carbon monoxide poisoning and improving gas safety. The report, the Gas Safety Trust Carbon Monoxide Trends Report – 1996 to 2010, has some worrying conclusions. This post looks briefly at these, although for more detailed information you should take a look at the report itself. The good news is that the overall numbers of fatalities seem to have gone down in recent years. However any death or serious illness is something to be avoided. Here are the reports findings. The people most at risk The report finds (as I say in the heading to this post) that the risk for people in the private sector is 50% more than for people living in the social rented sector or in their own privately owned home. It has improved since 1996, probably due to the gas regulations, however this is still a worrying statistic. The other worrying result, is that older people – most particularly those over 70 – are five times more at risk that those of other ages. The reason for this? The elderly tend to spend a disproportionately large amount of time indoors and in the home compared with other age ranges. This fact coupled with the probable insensitivity to the physiological effects of CO compared with others makes the elderly significantly more vulnerable and at risk of being fatally injured as a result of natural gas related CO poisoning. Additionally, it may be that the elderly tend to possess older gas appliances. The properties most at risk The report then looks at the type of property and finds that terraced houses disproportionately higher risk. Detached properties it seems are the lowest risk, due to 'fluing and ventilation issues'. The age of a property does not seem to have much effect although more recently built properties have marginally less risk than others. Appliances most at fault It seems that appliances located on the ground floor tend to cause the greater problems, and will typically be in a room rather than a cupboard. Far and away the biggest problem appliances are those used for central heating – the percentage ranging over the years from 59% (the lowest) to 87% (the highest). Gas fires seem to pose considerably less risk with percentages ranging between 19% and 8%. Of the central heating appliances involved, the most risky are the older and non condensing varieties, and boilers of over 21 years now feature in about 50% of incidents. The most common fault reported appears to be with ventilation, which makes sense. Servicing and visits Strangely it seems that a very large proportion of the problematic appliances had been inspected within the last 6 months, although the most common cause of incidents is said to be lack of servicing. This apparent contradiction is, suggests the report, probably because the visits were 'on demand' (ie callouts because of a problem) rather than regular service visits. Up until 2005 (we are told) incidents were more associated with properties where there were no service contracts, but since then this seems to be less important. Which makes one wonder if this means standards are falling. Areas most at risk This seems to be the most densely populated areas, London and the West Midlands. Which makes sense as they are also probably areas with the largest concentration of rented property. Report conclusions These are the main conclusions reached by the report: Greater support should be given to elderly people, particularly in connection with replacing older appliances There has been significant improvement in standards in the rented sector due to the regulations, but it would (the report considers) be better to require landlords to have appliances serviced annually rather than just checked for safety. Owners of older boilers should be given incentives to replace them, perhaps with a more energy efficient model Something should be done about the significant number of unregistered gas operatives which are apparently still working in the industry Further thoughts I don't think we should lose sight of the fact that standards have improved, which is a good thing. Also the overall numbers seem quite small, compared to the number of people living in rented accommodation for example, so it does not look as if we are looking at a widespread problem. The greater risk of incidents involving people over 70 is not unexpected, for the reasons given by the report. However the 50% greater likelihood of an incidence in a private rented property is unacceptable and it is worrying that many appliances involved in incidents apparently had recent call outs. What do you think?

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