Gas Safety Week: Don’t Rely on a Canary in a Cage!


The death of a pet budgerigar was what alerted Braintree man Darren Jones and his two boys to the danger of gas poisoning when a faulty boiler leaked lethal carbon monoxide into their home.

The boys were distraught at the loss of their pet. “I had to tell them he’d gone to play with the ducks,” said Darren. But the outcome could have been far worse, and Darren took the immediate precaution of getting his family out of the house and putting in an emergency call.

Even so, they were lucky: a budgerigar or canary in a cage – the primitive warning system used by coalminers in the 19th century – is not the most efficient method of detecting a gas leak, which is why Harpers is supporting Gas Safety Week 2017, an annual event to raise awareness of gas safety and the importance of taking care of your gas appliances.

How can you tell if you are at risk? First and foremost, if you think you can smell gas, switch off any gas appliances, douse any naked flames and open windows to ventilate your home and dissipate any gas build up. Then call the free helpline on 0800 408 5500 and get a professional engineer to check it out immediately.

There are also some other tell-tale signs to look out for. Lazy yellow or orange flames instead of crisp blue ones, and black marks on or around appliances are indicative that they aren’t working properly. Again, get that remedied straight away.

Perhaps the most insidious danger of all is carbon monoxide poisoning, which is odourless and can quickly prove fatal. Warning signs of a carbon monoxide leak include headaches, dizziness, breathlessness and nausea. But don’t wait until you feel unwell. Have an audible carbon monoxide alarm fitted that alerts you to the threat before it becomes critical.

Of course, it goes without saying that prevention is better than cure. So have your gas appliances checked and serviced at least once a year by Gas Safe registered engineers like ourselves.

There’s a rider to the Joneses’ story that is worth mentioning here. On investigation it was found that the carbon monoxide poisoning leak was caused by cracked insulation panels on the boiler, which had not been serviced in over seven years and for which replacement parts had become obsolete. In short, it was an accident waiting to happen.

The moral of the story is plain. Use a professional Gas Safe engineer for both installation and maintenance. You can find or check one out at or call 0800 408 5500. And when the engineer calls to do the job, check his Gas Safe Register ID card to make sure he’s qualified to do the work you need doing. You can find this information on the back of the card.

At Harpers we won’t be offended or upset if you ask to see our credentials. On the contrary we welcome it for your protection and peace of mind. If you’d like advice on any aspect of gas safety, or would like to arrange a check-up or service of your gas appliances, please contact us on 01279 771981.