Gas Safety Week is launched

Public at risk from the 'silent killer', says AA

Gas Safety Week

As Gas Safety Week takes place
(16–22 September), research by AA Home Emergency Response reveals that fewer than half of households (42%) have a carbon monoxide alarm in their home that they check each year.1

In the UK around 50 people die from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning every year, and 200 people are left seriously ill.2

AA engineers share their 'nightmare' boiler experiences

Carbon monoxide gas is known as 'the silent killer' because it has no odour or taste and can kill quickly. In many cases it is produced by gas appliances in poor condition that have not been serviced.3

The AA's Home Assist engineers regularly come across gas appliances that are badly maintained or in a dangerous state. Here are genuine reports from our engineers.

  • A customer moved their carbon monoxide alarm from their living room into the hall after it repeatedly went off. They wrongly assumed it was caused by steam from the adjoining kitchen. In fact the alarm was caused a bird's nest blocking the customer's chimney. Fuel from the fire couldn't burn properly, creating carbon monoxide and a potentially lethal situation.
  • A person had begun using their old gas fire when their boiler had gone on the blink. The engineer who came to fix the boiler noticed that the fire was very sooty – a sign that carbon monoxide could be present. When he carried out a smoke test on the fireplace, the neighbour ran in to say their house was filling up with smoke. They had been unwell with what they thought was a cold, but was more likely due to carbon monoxide poisoning. Some building work on the chimney had caused the smoke and carbon monoxide to spill into the neighbouring property.
  • Several engineers have reported seeing flues – the pipe that takes waste gases from the boiler to the outside – that had become so hot because of poor combustion in the boiler that they had melted.
  • A DIY enthusiast decided to drill holes in their cooker burner injectors – the fixtures inside a cooker that controls the flame – the logic being that more gas meant faster cooking. It didn't work: the member suffered symptoms of carbon monoxide inhalation. A clue was that the kitchen walls were stained black from the smoke caused by this potentially lethal modification.

The only effective way to tell if lethal gas is present is by having a carbon monoxide alarm or alarms in your home.

Ryan Murphy, AA Home Assist Engineer of the Year

AA comment

Ryan Murphy, AA Home Assist Engineer of the Year, says: "When you see what a bad state some members' boilers are in, it's a wonder they've lasted so long without something going seriously wrong.

"Having temperamental heating and hot water can be really inconvenient, but a carbon monoxide leak can kill.

"If you smell gas you should call the emergency gas number immediately and open all of your windows and doors.4

"Gas has an odour which is easily identifiable but carbon monoxide doesn't. The only effective way to tell if lethal gas is present is by having a carbon monoxide alarm or alarms in your home. They aren't expensive and are available from most hardware stores. If you don't have one, you might not know you have a leak until you start to become unwell. Flu-like symptoms are the first sign.

"An annual boiler service will make sure your boiler is working safely. In addition, a regular check or replacement of your carbon monoxide alarm is essential."

Carbon monoxide alarms should comply with BS EN 50291, and also show the British Standards Kitemark or another European approval mark.

Stay safe from carbon monoxide

If you've got a gas boiler, it's very important to get it serviced regularly in order to minimise the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Central Heating Response Plus provides cover for central heating emergencies and includes a boiler service too.

  • Unlimited call-outs for heating emergencies and repairs
  • Boiler inspection and service by a Gas Safe engineer
  • Gas boiler or central heating breakdowns where you have no hot water and/or heating
  • Common heating repairs, like the boiler not always coming on when it should or fixing a faulty radiator 

Cover for your boiler and central heating

Learn more


1 Research carried out by ICM among 2,029 adults, 7–9 September 2012.


3 Gas Safety Trust Carbon Monoxide Incident Report 2012, Figure 25;

4 Emergency gas number – call 0800 111 999.

16 September 2013