There is a risk to boaters from carbon monoxide generated by their own activities such as use of portable generators on board rather than on the towpath, as well as the more obvious use of inadequately ventilated stoves, cookers, heaters or other combustion appliances.
Boaters are also at risk from others’ use of such appliances in close proximity, where significant levels of carbon monoxide from others’ activities can be propelled into boats through open doors and windows.
IWA advises that all boaters fit a carbon monoxide alarm on their boat, and for people to expect to see alarms fitted and working on boats they hire or otherwise use. Appropriate carbon monoxide detectors are readily available to the safety standard EN 50291-2:2010 and suitable for marine use, and appear to be the only defence against passive accumulations of the gas from other sources by alarming at low levels. These can be obtained on-line for less than £20.
MAIB video highlighting the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning on boats:
Carbon Monoxide is a colourless, odourless, invisible, and very toxic gas. It is the product of incomplete combustion. If a carbon-based fuel - such as petrol, diesel, LPG (liquid petroleum gas), wood, coal, or charcoal briquettes - is burned in an atmosphere with insufficient oxygen, Carbon Monoxide results.Carbon Monoxide is heavier than air, and will sink to bottom of holds or accommodation space on boats, as well as in caravans and tents, etc. People asleep are particularly susceptible to Carbon Monoxide poisoning, and many deaths are recorded annually from Carbon Monoxide produced by malfunctioning or improperly vented appliances.
Carbon Monoxide poisoning symptoms may easily be overlooked because of their similarity to other health-related problems aboard boats - including seasickness, colds, flu and overindulgence of alcohol. One or more of the following symptoms may signify the adverse effects of Carbon Monoxide accumulations: watery and itchy eyes, flushed appearance, throbbing temples, inattentiveness or lack of concentration, inability to think coherently, ringing in the ears, tightness across the chest, headache, drowsiness, nausea, dizziness, fatigue, vomiting, collapse, and convulsions.
If you get any of these symptoms get to fresh air quickly.
Make sure it is suitable for marine use, as many are not.
The Council of Gas Detection and Environmental Monitoring
Tel: 01462 434322
The Boat Safety Scheme - Boat Safety Scheme CO Awareness Information
Gas Safe Register - for a list of registered fitters that work on
Tel: 0800 408 5500
HSE leaflet “Gas Appliances - Get them checked, Keep them Safe” ref: INDG238(rev2).
Find out how you can limit the fire and carbon monoxide risks arise from the way that engines, appliances, systems and fuels are used and maintained on the Boat Safety Scheme website.
Find out more about Carbon Monoxide safety on the Boat Safety Scheme website.