Gas safety officials issue urgent advice to British campers

20th July 2012

Seven campers, including two children, died from carbon monoxide fumes caused by barbeques in the last year

  • A further seventeen people have suffered serious exposure to carbon monoxide while camping
  • One in five campers do not know the dangers of bringing a BBQ inside a tent
  • Following simple tips can keep people safe

Gas Safe Register, the UK’s official gas safety body, is issuing urgent advice to the estimated 3.7 million Brits who plan to go camping this summer, following several tragic carbon monoxide (CO) deaths caused by gas and charcoal barbeques.

In the last year in UK campsites, seven Brits have died from CO poisoning and seventeen have been injured by bringing barbeques inside tents and enclosed spaces, including 14 year old Hannah Thomas-Jones and six year old Isabelle Harris. Both girls tragically died after they inhaled fumes from barbeques which had been moved into their families’ tents to keep them warm over the night.

New research from Gas Safe Register has revealed a worrying lack of awareness among the public about the dangers of CO from barbeques and camping lamps. One in five (21 per cent) Brits do not recognise the dangers of bringing a gas barbeque inside a tent and over a third (36 per cent) do not know doing the same with a charcoal barbeque is just as risky. Even sitting too close to a gas or charcoal barbeque can lead to CO poisoning, which only a third of those surveyed were aware of.

Over half (52 per cent) of those surveyed said they felt safer holidaying in the UK than abroad, giving reasons such as higher safety standards (75 per cent), knowing the emergency services numbers (73 per cent) and believing the water supply is safer (65 per cent).However, a survey recently carried out by One Poll on behalf of Gas Safety Trust, found that a third of UK campers have or would use a gas cooker inside their tent, gazebo or caravan. A further one in five (20 per cent) said they would definitely do so if it rained.

Sarah Hill, stakeholder manager at Gas Safe Register, said:

Camping and barbeques are a popular way to enjoy the British summer, but we want people to enjoy themselves and stay safe. The past year has seen too many tragic cases of people losing their lives during family camping trips. As our survey highlights, many individuals are simply not aware of the significant risks of bringing a gas or charcoal barbeque into a tent or enclosed space. We are concerned that if the weather continues to be wet and cold over the summer more campers will be tempted to do this. Our message is simple – do not bring barbeques indoors, even if you think they have finished burning.

Carbon monoxide is a highly poisonous gas. You can’t see it, taste it or smell it and without an adequate supply of fresh air, it can kill quickly. As well as revealing the public’s lack of awareness of CO poisoning caused by barbeques, the research also found that people could not identify many other causes of CO poisoning. Nearly one in five (18 per cent) people do not know a poorly ventilated room with working gas appliances can lead to a build up of carbon monoxide.

Badly fitted and poorly maintained gas appliances can cause gas leaks, explosions, fires and carbon monoxide poisoning. Whether staying in the UK or abroad, in a B&B, hotel or rented property, holidaymakers are more vulnerable than when at home as they simply don’t know how often gas appliances have been safety checked or serviced by the owners.

Sarah Hill added: “If you’re staying in a cottage, caravan or B&B, you can ask if the gas appliances in your accommodation have been safety checked and serviced. The owner must do this by law. As a second line of defence, you can also take an audible CO alarm away with you.”

Gas Safe Register’s advice for staying safe

Stay safe on holiday and don’t put yourself at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Follow Gas Safe Register’s top tips:

  1. Never use a smouldering or lit BBQ (charcoal or gas), gas stove, light or heater in a tent, caravan or cabin, unless it is a permanent fixture that has been installed and maintained correctly. Even if you have finished cooking, your BBQ will still give off fumes for some hours after use.
  2. Place your cooking area well away from your tent. Always ensure there is an adequate supply of fresh air where the BBQ is being used.
  3. Remember the six main signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning – headaches, dizziness, breathlessness, nausea, collapse and loss of consciousness. If concerned, seek medical advice.
  4. If using a gas appliance, check that the appliance is in good order, undamaged and, where present, that hoses are properly attached and undamaged. If in doubt, get the hoses replaced or do not use it. Make sure the gas taps or cylinder valve are turned off before changing the gas cylinder and only do this in the open air. Do not over-tighten joints
  5. Ask if the gas appliances in your accommodation have been safety checked and serviced. In the UK, the owner must do this by law.