Take the lessons from the death from carbon monoxide poisoning of two friends in York

Following the deaths of two friends from carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning in a boat called Diversion in York in December 2019, the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) has published a safety flyer with the lessons learnt from its initial findings and the Boat Safety Scheme is urging boaters to read it and adopt the safety advice immediately.

The boaters died when the improvised and mismatched cabin heater installation leaked exhaust gas resulting in lethal amounts of toxic CO being pumped into the cabin near the steering position. The leaking gas and the fact that there was no working CO alarm aboard, may have led to the poisoning of the men’s blood systems without them having any warning.

The BSS joins with the MAIB in asking boaters to install appropriate appliances safely and ensure they are maintained correctly and have at least one suitable working CO alarm aboard.

The Bulletin stresses that work on any exhaust system should only be installed according to instructions with approved parts, suitable for marine use. The BSS urges boat owners to have a suitably qualified fitter carry out the installation and checking work.

Both organisations strongly recommend that any fuel burning systems should also be checked routinely by competent engineers, at least annually and any faults found, addressed without delay.

The MAIB also advises boaters to install a CO alarm, preferably meeting safety standard EN 50291-2:2010 (a marine use standard) following the instructions for installing it in a boat.

Boats with permanent accommodation space on the UK’s waterways covered by the Boat Safety Scheme requirements must have at least one suitable CO alarm installed – more details are available on the BSS website.

‘Carbon monoxide is a silent killer and staying alive can mean recognising any early signs of poisoning and knowing what to do if CO poisoning is suspected.’ said, BSS manager Kevin Tyson.

‘It’s critical that boaters fully take on board the potential dangers of carbon monoxide. It cannot be seen, smelt, tasted, or felt and in high concentrations, CO can kill without warning, sometimes in only minutes.’

‘Even breathing-in lower levels of CO over a longer period, can have serious effects such as memory problems and difficulty concentrating.’ He added

The early symptoms of CO poisoning can be masked or mistaken for colds, flu or COVID-19. Victims might suffer headaches, suffer mood changes; feel sick and dizzy; or be tired and confused, some may have stomach pains and start vomiting.

More serious affects can quickly develop such as loss of balance, difficulty breathing or controlling limbs and eventually unconsciousness.

Any carbon-fuel burning appliance or engine can cause CO – carbon fuels include diesel, petrol, gas, coal, wood and charcoal.

The BSS has the latest advice for boaters on http://www.boatsafetyscheme.org/stay-safe/carbon-monoxide-(co) – Don’t let CO ruin your life!

BSS: communications manager, Rob McLean, Tel 0333 202 1000 mbl: 07710 175478 robert.m@boatsafetyscheme.org