Human behaviour under the spotlight

6th Apr 2020


It’s wall-to-wall coverage, understandably, of coronavirus at the moment. Our daily lives are being turned upside down; expert advice challenged and a genuine desire taking hold of the need to safeguard welfare. This spotlight on human behaviour is illuminating, not just for fighting a disease but for what it might teach us on other issues.

I want to explore the gas industry’s own silent killer, carbon monoxide.

Around 30 people a year die as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning and the gas industry has historically been involved in combatting this. The gas networks, incentivised by the regulator, have been at the forefront of this work – from awareness raising campaigns to fitting carbon monoxide alarms.

According to the English Housing Survey (2018) 42 per cent of homes have carbon monoxide alarms fitted – roughly the same percentage across owner/occupier; social rented and private rented sectors. These alarms, on their own, do not offer complete protection. It’s similar to arguments about wearing a facemask to prevent catching coronavirus. It might help, but it isn’t complete protection.

Data from carbon monoxide deaths by housing tenure might suggest other approaches can also aid the fight against the silent killer. Looking at the stats, 57 per cent of CO deaths are in owner/occupier properties, compared to 10 per cent in private rented, 9 per cent in council and 3 per cent in housing association rented. Could it be that the more stringent annual gas safety checks, carried out in rented properties, actually helps to reduce the number of CO related deaths?

If this is the case, and I am happy to be corrected or proven wrong on this, then the sensible course of action is for regulation that insists on annual gas safety checks in all properties. Even better, if this also incorporated an annual service of the gas appliance – making sure it is operating safely all year round, not just at the time of installation.

Best wishes

Mike Foster, CEO