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Why is carbon monoxide (CO) dangerous?
CO is a colourless, odourless, tasteless, poisonous gas produced by incomplete burning of carbon-based fuels, including gas. It is only when the gas does not burn properly that dangerous levels of CO are produced. CO stops the blood from bringing oxygen to cells, tissues, and organs and can kill quickly. Around 20 people in Great Britain die each year from CO poisoning caused by faulty gas appliances and flues.

CO poisoning can easily be confused with food poisoning, viral infections, flu or tiredness. Symptoms to look out for include headaches, breathlessness, nausea, dizziness, collapse, loss of consciousness, tiredness, drowsiness, vomiting, pains in the chest, stomach pains, erratic behaviour or visual problems.

What should I do if I think I am suffering from CO poisoning?
If you have immediate safety concerns, or think you are suffering the symptoms of CO poisoning, turn off the appliance immediately and contact the National Gas Emergency Service on 0800 111 999.

If you or your family experience any of the above symptoms and you believe CO may be involved, you should seek urgent medical advice from either your GP or an accident and emergency department.

If there is an immediate safety issue, why have I got two years to fit inspection hatches?
Getting the work completed may take time, especially if you are contacting your builder or home warranty provider, or you may be waiting for your next scheduled boiler service. By getting your boiler serviced by a Gas Safe registered engineer and fitting audible CO alarm(s), to BS EN 50291:2001, you are helping to manage any risk until the inspection hatches have been installed.

If I am safe to use my boiler for the next two years with CO alarms and boiler checks why must I have inspection hatches installed at all?
Gas engineers are required to be able to see the flue to inspect it. Unless inspection hatches are fitted, they cannot confirm that your flue is safe and will ask your permission to turn the boiler off. Having your boiler serviced and the fitting of CO alarms are only being allowed as a short-term measure to help you manage the risk until inspection hatches have been installed. They are not an alternative to having access to the flue.

How much will inspection hatches cost me?
It will vary from property to property. It is recommended that hatches are at least 300mm x 300mm and wherever possible, be positioned within 1.5m of any joint in the flue system. Therefore, some properties will only need one hatch, while others may need more.

Inspection hatches will be quoted upon survey, including the costs for fitting.

What does 'At Risk' mean? Can I still use my boiler?
If your system is 'At Risk' it could become dangerous in the future. Having inspection hatches installed, which allow for the flue to be viewed along its length, will mean your system is no longer classified 'At Risk' (as long as there are no additional safety issues found with the boiler or flue system).

If inspection hatches to allow the flue to be seen are not fitted by 1 January 2013, your gas engineer will advise you that the installation is "at risk" and turn the boiler off, with your permission. As an interim measure, to allow time for the necessary work, a registered gas engineer can carry out safety checks and ensure that audible CO alarms (meeting BS EN 50291:2001) have been fitted.

Why was my property built without inspection hatches in the first place?
Advances in technology allowed boilers to be put in a greater variety of positions, not just on an outside wall, suiting the development of flats and apartments where space was at a premium. This resulted in some boilers being installed, but in a way that the flue cannot be inspected to make sure it is correctly fitted and safe.

I think I have a home warranty but don't know who it is with.
When you purchased the property your solicitor should have told you who was providing the home warranty. It is possible that you have correspondence from the warranty provider. The main warranty providers in the UK are NHBC and Premier Guarantee. Depending on the age of the property Zurich Building Guarantee may have provided the warranty. The contact details for these are listed in the associated Safety Notice.

My home warranty has expired. What does that mean for me?
If your home warranty has expired, you or your landlord will have to meet the cost of the inspection hatches and any defects to the boiler or its flue. If you receive benefits you may be entitled to financial assistance. Further details can be found on the Health and Safety Executive website.

It may still be worth contacting your home builder who may be willing to assist in some way, or be able to recommend reputable building services companies to carry out the work.

Where do I get CO alarms and what will they cost me?
You can purchase long life battery CO alarms (to BS EN 50291:2001) from most DIY stores, supermarkets and high street stores from around £20 each. If you are installing them yourself always follow the manufacturer's instructions on where to fit them.

CO alarms can continue to be used once inspection hatches have been installed and are recommended as an additional precaution.

Who do I approach to install inspection hatches?
A competent builder or building services company should be able to fit the inspection hatches. The builder will need to speak to a registered gas engineer on how many inspection hatches are needed and where they should be located.

If you would prefer Mikey's Plumbing to undertake the works for you, we will be happy to provide you with a quote.

What if I don't have inspection hatches fitted?
From 1st January 2013 gas engineers can continue to work on your boiler but should advise you that it is "At Risk" and will ask your permission to turn it off, to ensure they comply with industry guidance. If you choose not to fit inspection hatches, you should however continue to have your boiler maintained every year by a Gas Safe registered engineer.

What if I refuse the gas engineer permission to turn off my boiler?
The aim of this guidance is to make consumers aware of important safety issues relating to hidden flue systems and carbon monoxide and to set out what action should be taken to protect those who live in or visit the property

As a consumer you are free to refuse the gas engineer permission to turn off your boiler. In these circumstances however you will be asked to sign paperwork to confirm you accept responsibility for those defects identified in the system which could result in a serious incident.

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