Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Risks When Boating

Each year boaters are made seriously ill from carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning and the consequences can be fatal.   In 2013 a mother and daughter died from CO poisoning on their boat on Windermere.

Boats are built to keep water out, but this also makes them good containers for gases and fumes.  When carbon-based fuels such as gas, LPG, oil, petrol and diesel don't burn completely, CO is produced.

CO build-up in the cabin can occur with one or a mix of these factors:

· Badly maintained or misused appliances.

· Exhaust fumes from a boat's engine or generator.

· Escaped flue gases from solid fuel stoves.

· Short supply of air - fuels need the right amount of oxygen to burn safely.

Tips from the Boat Safety Scheme to keep you and your crew alive and well:

· All the crew should know the symptoms of CO poisoning and how to react if it is suspected.

· Follow servicing guidelines; maintenance should be routine and competent - Don't allow bodged repairs, adjustments and adaptations.

· Always use appliances as per the instructions and never use cookers for space heating.

· Don’t block ventilation – appliance fuels like gas, oil, paraffin, etc. need sufficient air to burn safely.

· Don’t bring charcoal BBQs on board, or have them near a cabin during or after use.

· Keep engine fumes out of the cabin space, never use a portable generator in or near a cabin.

· Learn about the danger signs, spot potential hazards before CO occurs.

· Deal with problems immediately, never use equipment you suspect has problems.

· Install a certified CO alarm (BS EN 50291-2), test it routinely and never remove the batteries.

Carbon Monoxide has no smell or taste and you cannot see it, so make sure you carry out the checks above.  Try and get into the habit of checking your CO (and fire) detectors each time you visit the boat, especially if you have been away from it for a while – batteries can easily got flat over the winter period so returning at the start of the season these are essential checks.

We have the Boat Safety Scheme leaflet available in the Marina Reception if you would like further info’ and it can be found online here.

Safe boating. 

Dan.