Dubbed as the “silent killer”, carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas which is produced by the incomplete combustion of carbon based fuels; usually a result of inadequate air for fuel-fired appliances or engines to work correctly.

Most commonly associated with domestic boilers, it is important to note that carbon monoxide poisoning is a risk anywhere where a fuel-burning appliance is used, but especially when they are situated in confined spaces with little ventilation and air flow.

Sources of Carbon Monoxide

Fuel-fired heating systems, water heaters and cooking appliances, along with emergency generation and maintenance operations – such as propane powered floor machines – are all potential sources of carbon monoxide.

In many commercial buildings, including residential blocks, schools and office blocks, the heating and hot water is often provided by a centralised plant room. It is not uncommon for these plant rooms to be unmanned for the vast majority of the day, or for them to be somewhat confined spaces.

Whilst the most common causes for carbon monoxide lie with faulty installation, poor repairs or insufficient maintenance, it is still possible for well-maintained appliances to fail and thus still pose a health risk.

Carbon Monoxide Leaks and Detection

When carbon monoxide occurs, it will rapidly fill the space within the plant room before gradually seeping out into other occupied areas of the building. Whilst the concentration – and therefore the fatality risk – will decrease the further it spreads, the carbon monoxide can still be concentrated enough to warrant hospital treatment for those who come into contact with it.

As carbon monoxide is odourless and colourless, it is usually very difficult to detect its presence without the help of a carbon monoxide detector. If you do have an alarm, it is imperative that there is also an emergency plan and trained personnel to deal with the problem; once the alarm sounds, the problem already has or currently is occurring – the risks are already present. If an untrained member of staff tries to address the issue, there could be serious consequences.

If you do not have an alarm, you need to make yourself and colleagues aware of carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms and seriously consider having a carbon monoxide detector fitted. If you do not have trained staff on site to deal with a carbon monoxide leak, there are systems available which shut down the equipment once carbon monoxide is detected.

What to Watch for

If anyone in your building starts to develop the following symptoms, which are prevalent at work but subside away from the building (particularly noticeable when away for a week or two), you could have a carbon monoxide leak.
Look out for:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea (feeling sick) and vomiting
  • Tiredness and confusion
  • Stomach pain
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath

Exposure to low levels of carbon monoxide cause symptoms similar to that of the flu, except carbon monoxide poisoning does not cause a high temperature.

The following symptoms are classic of exposure to high levels of carbon monoxide:

  • Impaired mental state and/or change of behaviour
  • Vertigo (it feels as if the room is spinning)
  • Loss of physical co-ordination
  • Breathlessness
  • Tachycardia (a heart rate above 100bpm)
  • Chest pain
  • Seizures
  • Loss of consciousness

Prevention is better than Cure

Whether domestic or commercial, maintenance of all fuel-fired appliances and equipment is vital for the safety of all occupants of the building.

Annual services are essential as they ensure that the appliance is in safe working order and will identify any potential faults or issues. A qualified technician will also be able to check the carbon monoxide levels, the pressure of the system, potential water leaks and possibly most dangerously, that there are no gas leaks which could lead to carbon monoxide, fires and even explosions.

While an annual service will identify any components which are not working effectively, regular cleaning of the system will help keep those components working efficiently.

Ensure that you have a service and maintenance plan in place. With the help of temporary boilers, an annual service and check can be hassle free, causing no disruption to you, your business or your customers.

Signs of a Faulty Appliance

If you notice any of the following, your appliance could be faulty and there may be carbon monoxide present. You should have it inspected straight away if:

  • Gas flames burn orange or yellow – they should burn blue
  • There are soot marks / stains on or above the fuel-fired appliance
  • Coal or wood fires are struggling to stay alight
  • Fire becomes difficult to ignite
  • There is a blocked chimney or flue
  • Low or high pressure to the boiler
  • Banging or clanking noises from the boiler
  • The boiler’s pilot light frequently goes out
  • Increased condensation inside the windows
  • A musty smell

According to the Gas Safe Register, 1-in-6 appliances in the South East and 1-in-7 appliances in London are not safe. Do not let yours be the next cause of a carbon monoxide fatality. Ensure correct installation, repairs and maintenance of any fuel-burning appliance and equipment.

Temporary boilers from Ideal Heat Solutions can provide the cover you need whilst a planned shutdown or repairs are carried out. They also offer emergency commercial boiler hire should you experience a boiler breakdown and need immediate help.

Contact our team today on 01622 632 918 if you require a temporary boiler or if your business requires further assistance