Preventing carbon monoxide poisoning

The best way to protect from carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning is to be aware of the dangers and to identify appliances that could emit CO gas.

It is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Protect yourself in your home and workplace

  • Make sure home appliances are safe and well maintained.

  • Boilers, cookers, heating systems and appliances should be installed and regularly serviced by a reputable, registered engineer.

  • Make sure rooms are well-ventilated and do not block air vents. If your home is double-glazed or draught-proofed, make sure there is still enough air circulating for any heaters that are in the room.

  • Do not use gas-powered equipment and tools inside your home if you can avoid it. Only use them in a well-ventilated area and put the engine unit and exhaust outside.

  • Always use a safety mask when using chemicals that contain methylene chloride.

  • Do not leave petrol-fuelled lawnmowers or cars running in the garage.

  • Do not burn charcoal (e.g. disposable barbecue or outdoor heater) in an enclosed space (tent, caravan or other enclosed space)

  • Do not sleep in a room that has an unflued gas fire or a paraffin heater.

  • Fit an extractor fan in your kitchen (if it does not already have one).

Always use a Gas Safe engineer

Anyone carrying out work on gas installations and appliances in your home must be on the Gas Safe Register. For solid fuel appliances they must belong to the Heating Equipment Testing and Approval Scheme (HETAS) and for oil appliances the Oil Firing Technical Association (OFTEC). Here are the links to their websites:

Gas Safe Register (Opens in new window)

Heating Equipment Testing and Approval Scheme (opens in new window)

Oil Firing Technical Association (opens in new window)

Make sure that all chimneys and flues are swept regularly

Make sure that all chimneys and flues are swept regularly by a qualified sweep who is a member of one of the following:

National Association of Chimney Sweeps (opens in new window)

Guild of Master Sweeps (opens in new window)

Association of Professional and Independent Chimney Sweeps (opens in new window)

Install a carbon monoxide alarm

Installing an audible CO alarm will provide an early warning system in case there is a carbon monoxide leak in your home. You can buy one from a DIY or hardware store.

CO alarms give out a high-pitched noise when levels of CO are high. However, a CO alarm is not a substitute for maintaining and regularly servicing household appliances.

When buying a CO alarm, you should make sure that it is approved to the latest British or European Standard (BS Kitemark or EN50291).

Where to install a carbon monoxide alarms

When placing and using an alarm in the home it is best to follow the instructions that were supplied with the alarm. If you can’t find these then here are a few guidelines that will help you install your carbon monoxide alarm in the home:

  • Follow alarm instructions and place alarms in rooms with fuel burning appliances such as boilers in kitchens and fires in the lounge

  • If you want to fix the alarm to a wall then position it at head height ( i.e. your breathing level), however the alarm does not need to be fixed on a wall (e.g. it can be placed on a table, shelf or bookcase)

  • If you have a portable battery alarm you could place this in the room that you spend most of your time such as a lounge or bedroom – you can even move it from room to room with you

  • As with smoke alarms, test your carbon monoxide alarm regularly with the test button (follow manufacturer’s instructions) and replace the batteries annually or when the low battery signal sounds

  • Do not place the alarm in a cupboard, behind furniture, near an outside door or ventilation ( e.g. extractor fans or cooker hoods)

  • Do not place alarms directly next to fires, boilers, cookers or heaters – the alarm should be at least one meter away from any of these appliances

  • Do not place an alarm in areas or near sources of high condensation and steam e.g near kettles, cooker tops, or showers.

  • The alarm should not be placed on a ceiling like a smoke alarm

Links to more information

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning

Carbon monoxide facts

Carbon monoxide - what to do in an emergency

Carbon Monoxide awareness website (opens in new window)

Last updated: Wednesday 17 February 2016