Over 30 boaters have died in the last 20 years from carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning, and a further 21 people required hospital treatment due to accidental poisoning by CO in exhaust fumes from boat engines or generators.
- If you’re smelling and breathing in petrol-engine exhaust fumes, stop the engine and get off the boat.
- Know the symptoms of CO poisoning, if anyone is indicating they are suffering, get them medical help. If the symptoms are severe – call the emergency services.
- Install a CO alarm certified to the BS EN 50291-2 standard, test it routinely and never remove the batteries.
There is a potential for exhaust and flue gasses to be drawn into a boat from a neighbouring boat, through open doors, windows and fixed ventilators. A suitable CO alarm is the only protection against this possibility.
While at higher levels it can kill, CO is still a danger at lower concentrations as it can cause chronic illness affecting people’s physical and mental health.
This poison gas has multiple potential sources on boats including all fuel-burning appliances, flues, chimneys, engines and exhausts. It is the by-product of an incomplete combustion of carbon-based appliance and engine fuels – such as gas, LPG, coal, wood, paraffin, oil, petrol and diesel.
Staying safe begins with installing all such equipment properly, in the way the maker describes. The continued safe enjoyment of boats will endure if maintenance doesn’t drift, or repairs are not put-off and equipment operational instructions are followed.
It’s also crucial for continued safety that everyone aboard understands the risks and knows the danger signs; they must always be watchful.
CO alarms are now mandatory on most boats on the inland waterways subject to Boat Safety Scheme requirements. For more tips and advice to help you and your crew stay safe, go to www.boatsafetyscheme.org/CO