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Gas safety: 10 tips that could save your life

Your home’s gas safety is paramount - we've put together a few tips to help keep yourself and your family safe from carbon monoxide poisoning.
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Gas safety

Using a Gas Safe Registered (previously CORGI Gas) Engineer

Letting someone who isn't qualified install or service a gas appliance can put you at serious risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide is incredibly dangerous; it can kill quickly and with almost no warning, but you can't see, taste or smell it.

The Gas Safe Register - previously known as CORGI - is the UK's official gas safety body. As such, any boiler engineer you use should be on the Gas Safe Register.

Therefore, the most important tip of all is this: you should only allow boiler engineers to work on your heating systems if they have an official Gas Safe Register membership card. If your engineer still has a CORGI card, they are no longer registered, and as such cannot carry out gas work legally.

When checking your engineer's card from now on, look for the yellow Gas Safe Register triangle and not the orange CORGI registration badge.

Gas safety: top 10 tips

1. Have your gas appliances checked annually

Subjecting your gas appliances to a yearly inspection ensures they’re in good working order. These tests, which take around 20-30 minutes, provide early warning of any potential issues and include an inspection of your gas pipework, including a tightness check to confirm there are no gas leaks.

Don’t simply rely on your boiler check, make sure other appliances – including your gas cooker – get a regular check-up too. The Gas Safe Register provides a website that allows you to set automatic reminders when these checks become due.

If you’re a tenant, it’s your landlord’s responsibility to arrange these checks every 12 months – proof should be provided through a Gas Safety Record (see below). If you are on a means-tested benefit, of pension age or chronically sick or disabled, then you may be entitled to go on your energy company’s Priority Services Register, which entitles you to a free annual gas safety check. Find out whether you could benefit by getting in touch with your energy company.

2. Make sure you receive Gas Safety Certificates

These certificates – also known as Gas Safety Records – provide you with proof that your home’s gas appliances are safe to use. They should be filled out by a Gas Safe-registered engineer after any gas work or repairs are made in your home. They require updating every 12 months, and landlords are legally obliged to keep an annual Gas Safety Record.

3. Always check that an engineer is Gas Safe registered

As stated above, it’s against the law for anyone to perform work on gas appliances in the United Kingdom, Isle of Man or Guernsey unless they are on the Gas Safe Register. Always check that an engineer is Gas Safe registered before you let them work in your home. You can check on the Gas Safe Register website or by calling 0800 408 5500.

Registered gas engineers will have a Gas Safe ID card.

There are different kinds of registrations - for example, someone may be registered to work on your boiler or pipework, but they might not be qualified to install a gas fire. You can check what kind of work they are qualified to do on the back of their card.

4. It's illegal for someone who works for a Gas Safe-registered business to do private work

Hiring someone who normally works for a reputable firm but is doing some extra work 'on the side' isn't the good idea it might seem - it's actually illegal.

If you think someone is working on gas illegally, report them to the Gas Safe Register, which will investigate their work.

5. Nominate your gas work for an inspection

If you've had gas work done in the last six months, you can nominate it for a free gas safety inspection from Gas Safe to make sure it's up to scratch.

6. If you move house, get your appliances tested

If you move into a new home, don't assume the appliances are safe - get everything checked by a Gas Safe-registered engineer.

7. Know the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning

Know the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning - it could save your life:

  • Headaches

  • Dizziness

  • Nausea

  • Breathlessness

  • Collapse or loss of consciousness  

  • Symptoms which disappear or get better when you leave home and come back when you return

  • Other people (and animals) experiencing the same symptoms at the same time

8. Know what to do if you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning

Here’s what you should do if you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning:

  • Get fresh air immediately - open the doors and windows

  • Turn off any gas appliances and turn the gas off at the meter

  • Extinguish naked flames

  • Leave the house

  • See your doctor immediately or go to hospital - let them know that you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning

  • Call the Gas Emergency Helpline on 0800 111 999 if you think there's any danger

9. Check for warning signs that your appliances may not be working properly.

The following are all potential signs that your appliances may not be working properly:

  • The flame on your gas cooker should be crisp and blue. Lazy yellow or orange flames mean you need to get your cooker checked

  • You may see soot, black marks or staining on or around gas appliances

  • Your pilot lights may go out frequently

  • You may see increased condensation inside your windows

All of these signs may signal a potential gas leak. For more information, read our guide to detecting (and preventing) gas leaks.

You should also perform regular visual inspections of your appliances – make sure there are no cracks and leaks, or clunking noises being made. Also, check any vents to make sure they’re not blocked.

10. Get an audible carbon monoxide alarm.

You can't taste, smell or see carbon monoxide, so an alarm is a good way to protect yourself.  Carbon monoxide alarms look like a smoke alarm, are easy to install and should cost under £20. Make sure the alarm you buy has a British or European approval mark on it, such as a Kitemark.

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for setting up and placing the alarm in a suitable location – typically above head height on the same level as your kitchen. Be sure to regularly test the batteries, replacing them (or the alarm itself if they’re non-removable) before they run out. 

Living independently with gas

It can be hard giving up cooking with gas, particularly if you suffer from memory loss or poor levels of concentration. If you’re worried about a loved one (or even yourself), you can take steps to protect them without forcing them to give up their gas cooker. 

If their cooker was manufactured before 2010, purchase a newer model – these come with automatic ignitions and flame-failure safety devices (whereby the gas cuts out when the flame goes out).

In addition, consider fitting a heat detection alarm, which sounds an alert when a certain temperature has been reached due to fire. Prices start from around £17 for a model with a sealed tamperproof 10-year battery. 

Also, speak to your regional gas network provider about having a locking cooker valve fitted to the cooker. This allows visitors to lock the cooker at night, preventing it from being used accidentally if your loved one suffers from dementia and has a habit of wandering at night.

If you’re stuck with an older gas cooker, an expensive – but completely automated – solution if your loved one has a habit of leaving the gas on might be to purchase a Natural Gas detector, such as the Honeywell HF500 Natural Gas Alarm, which costs around £75. This can also be linked to a separate auto-gas shut-off valve, which needs to be hardwired into the property’s electrical circuitry. Factoring in the electrician’s costs and any circuit upgrades, it may be more cost-effective to replace the hob.

What is the Gas Safe Register?

The Gas Safe Register was launched in 2009 and took over from the previous gas safety scheme, which was called CORGI Gas Registration. CORGI Gas had been in place for more than 17 years and significantly reduced domestic gas safety issues during this time.

Despite this success, a gas safety review carried out in 2006 by industry stakeholders, gas engineers and consumer groups, decided to reform CORGI Gas Registration to build on previous achievements. As a result, in 2008 the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) selected the Capita Group Plc to provide a new registration initiative for gas engineers.

The Gas Safe Register was created and committed to improving gas safety and value for both the public and engineers.

Carbon monoxide poisoning

Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning kills about 50 people each year in their homes, with more than 200 suffering from health problems as a result of CO exposure. With this in mind, it’s vital that you know the risks and how to prevent CO poisoning. Carbon monoxide is so dangerous because you can't see, smell or hear it. You therefore need to be extra vigilant when looking out for the symptoms of CO poisoning. 

CO poisoning can manifest itself with symptoms similar to those of a hangover or the flu. You may experience headaches, nausea, dizziness, breathlessness and in extreme cases you might even collapse or lose consciousness. If you find the symptoms disappear when you leave the house, then it could be that you're suffering from CO poisoning.

How can I prevent carbon monoxide poisoning?

  • If you own your property, it is your responsibility to make sure that all your gas appliances are serviced and checked on an annual basis.

  • It is essential that you use a Gas Safe Registered engineer, as only registered engineers are legally allowed to install and service gas appliances in your home. Gas Safe Register replaced Corgi as the official gas registration body for Great Britain and the Isle of Man on 1st April 2009.

If you are moving into rented accommodation, it is the law that your landlord has to produce a gas safety certificate to prove that annual safety checks have been carried out and all gas appliances have been serviced.

It is also important that you have a carbon monoxide alarm fitted. You can buy these from most DIY stores and they can be fitted to the wall easily, preferably in your bedroom.

The alarm will sound when CO levels in the room start to rise above the normal level, at which stage you should contact an engineer immediately and leave the property.

If you're in the UK and have any problems with gas in your property, you can call the Gas Emergency freephone number 0800 111 999.

Check out our guide on carbon monoxide poisoning for more information.