Gas fires MOT to reduce death toll

Expanding student population at risk from faulty appliances

The rising death-toll from carbon monoxide poisoning could lead to laws requiring all gas fires to have MOT-style safety certificates. Nigel Griffiths, the Labour consumer affairs spokesman, said the plan was part of a review of gas safety procedures planned by the party if it wins the election.

The expanding student population and pressure on private rented accommodation have contributed to a marked increase in deaths from the odourless and tasteless gas.

The Carbon Monoxide and Gas Safety Society (CO-Gas) said 63 people died from CO poisoning last year, including 36 from faulty gas heaters, an increase of 24 per cent over 1995. The deaths have led to a succession of investigations by police and the Health and Safety Executive into how the gas fires were installed and maintained.

Sonja Hyams, 18, a student at Keele University, died in her digs in Stoke-on-Trent in November and four other 19-year-old students who shared the house were taken to hospital suffering from gas poisoning.

Last month two men were arrested in connection with Miss Hyams's death and released on police bail.

In a separate case coming to court this month, the HSE is bringing a prosecution against two Staffordshire landlords who rented a terraced house to Robert Dunn, 22, who was found dead from CO poisoning in his bedroom in November 1995.

The HSE alleges that the landlords contravened gas safety regulations by failing to carry out safety checks on his gas boiler.

Also this month, three men are due to appear in court in Suffolk charged with the manslaughter of Paul Foster, 19, who was found dead from CO poisoning in the bedroom of his Ipswich flat in February.

The prosecution followed an investigation by Suffolk police, Suffolk Fire Service, the HSE and Ipswich Borough Council.

January is usually the worst month for CO deaths, and campaigners are concerned that a continued lack of public awareness of the risks is adding to the toll. Last month an Oxford inquest heard that Karen Weise, 25, a nurse, had sought hospital treatment after complaining of nausea and palpitations.

She was sent home and she and her boyfriend, Michael Wood, 30, died the following day in their bed.

They were poisoned by gas because a spell of extremely cold weather had brought on a down-draught in the chimney and exacerbated the effects of a faulty boiler.

The HSE has stepped up enforcement activity against landlords and gas fitters who breach safety rules. Last year the number of notices served on landlords and fitters for gas safety failings rose from 59 to 165.

Among those prosecuted was the London borough of Camden, which was fined pounds 44,000 by Clerkenwell magistrates in November after failing to give annual services to tenants' gas fires and other safety failings.

Bob Clapham, head of enforcement at the HSE, said 33 unregistered gas installers were also prosecuted last year.

Stephanie Trotter, president of CO-Gas, said that a full register of qualified individuals who fit gas fires should be drawn up immediately and those that are prosecuted should be struck off.

Since 1991 all gas fitters have been required by law to be join the Basingstoke-based Council of Registered Gas Installers (CORGI).

Last year CORGI passed details of 500 unregistered fitters to the HSE for possible prosecution.

Helen Atkinson, a spokeswoman, said: "If you are having gas work carried out please ensure the fitters are registered with CORGI."

The current legislation, which obliges landlords properly to maintain gas fires and provide tenants with a safety certificate, makes no requirement of people living in private homes, where most gas poisoning deaths occur.

Mr Griffiths said: "It is quite shocking that so many of our young people are dying like this. I think an MOT on gas equipment should be seriously considered, so that all gas equipment should have an annual inspection."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing