Speeches given on January 27th 2015 at the House of Lords event for CO-Gas Safety’s 20th anniversary
Speech by Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, patron of CO-Gas Safety
Welcome to all of you and well done for getting here today to make this event.
Thank you to the many sponsors, who are supporting the charity.
We are here to celebrate 20 years of CO-Gas Safety and to appreciate that this is going to be the last of these House of Lords events for the prize giving. We thank the Gas Emergency Service Providers (GDNs) who are now all supporting the poster competition this year, which is great. Even better, they are willing to secure the competition for the future and from 2015-16 will run local prize giving events in their own areas. For proportionate funding that the GDNs have provided up to now, CO-Gas Safety will host the website, update material for the competition and judge the prizes with the help of John O’Leary. The charity will also try to attend the GDNs’ local events. These are good joint efforts and we are very grateful and excited to be expanding the competition.
However, we are here today to celebrate, the 20th anniversary of CO-Gas Safety.
I pay tribute to all those at the charity who have worked so hard to keep it going. Stephanie Trotter, Don Neal and Jonathan Kane were trustees in 1995 and there at the launch of CO-Gas Safety and they are still trustees. Paul Overton joined after his step daughter Katie died in 2003 and has been an invaluable member of the team.
Stephanie has asked me to make it clear that she in particular had no desire to stay for this long working as a full time volunteer. It took her a mere three years to get the law changed on her previous campaign (children’s activity holiday centres). We are very grateful to her and her fellow trustees.
These are the things CO-Gas Safety identified were needed within a few weeks in 1995:-
- Greater awareness – prime time Public Health Information Films about all fuels, all appliances and all sorts of accommodation from bungalows to boats.
- Identification and testing of appliances emitting CO ideally by the gas emergency service providers and ideally free to the consumer.
- Data collection, collation and publication.
- Victim support leading to prevention.
Stephanie hoped that because she isn’t a victim and is indeed a barrister with a proven record of improving safety, she might be able to relay prevention to big business.
From the victims she learned and still learns a huge amount – Nearly all victims asked, ‘how could we have stopped our loved one dying from CO when we didn’t even know CO existed, let alone how to prevent it?’ She hoped to relay the excellent ideas that victims came up with to big business.
However, meetings with the big 6 were difficult. I urge those in the industry with the power to change things to meet Stephanie and the other trustees. They have a valuable and free contribution to make. Of all the big 6 I understand that only British Gas and E.ON are here today* and E.ON has offered a meeting with someone who has the power to change things. That is progress but after 20 years I’d like to see a lot more. Why don’t the CEOs of the big 6 agree to meet with Stephanie, myself and an interested Coroner, Mr. Nigel Meadows who has kindly offered to attend?
* Correction – apparently Scottish Power was also present. Stephanie Trotter apologises for forgetting this and not telling Lord Hunt.
Despite huge funding & communication difficulties considerable progress has been made and there has been a turn around in public awareness. I’d love to list everything but it just isn’t possible. The activity report prepared for APPCOG (All Party Parliamentary Carbon Monoxide Group) on pages 4 and 5 of the press pack shows what CO-Gas Safety has done during the last five years so gives you some idea. Stephanie would like to thank Haley Bowcock for her help and patience with this.
So there are now 19 years of its data from all fuels, now on a database with a scanned document to prove each death and validated twice independently by statistician Dr Craggs and recently inspected by Public Health England. Along with the data goes the experience in the necessary fields, detail from the families and the relationship with the Coroners.
This data shows 677 people who have died from unintentional CO from all fuels from 01.09.1995 to 31.08.14 in 19 years and nearly 5000 (4,766) people who have suffered near misses.
These figures are striking – we have a real problem. I do believe that Government has a role and should take charge. What can’t be denied is that some of these deaths and injuries could have been avoided if more action had been taken – primarily raising public awareness. You can’t change people’s behaviour unless they understand the dangers. That TV warning about driving too fast – the child coming back to life in the road and saying ‘if you had not driven so fast I would have lived’ engaged people’s emotions – that’s what needs to happen to warn about CO.
CO-Gas Safety’s directors are willing to share its hugely valuable historical database – provided funding can be found for the charity to continue this vital work. Other data exists and CO-Gas Safety agrees with Baroness Finlay that all data should be pooled. There are already several sources of data, HSE’s GDNs’ to name but two so why not a source from a victims’ organisation which has been doing this work since 1995?
CO-Gas Safety has had no Government funding for the data since 2010 but thanks to Kane has managed to continue.
Despite the lack of communication with and action by suppliers, some parts of industry did take notice and that’s the GDNs. We are told that they have now at least protected their First Call Operators with either Gasco seekers for CO or Personal Alarm Monitors for CO. However this doesn’t identify the appliance emitting CO because customers are told to turn off and open the windows before the FCO attends.
It is never easy to point out home truths to anyone, least of all those at the top of big business.
The John Lewis penguin advert cost £7 million but a CO campaign needn’t be nearly as expensive. Network Rail ran an excellent prime time TV campaign for just 9 deaths so surely the fuel suppliers could manage at least the equivalent to save lives? I recall that I was at a test match a few years ago at the Oval when a huge warning came up about CO.
It is great to celebrate the winners of the competition.
The charities can only point out the problems.
The key to action lies is in the hands of those who have the money and influence to complete it. They might even find that expertise in fuel safety proves to be a profitable British export!
Stephanie Trotter, OBE President & Director of CO-Gas Safety
Thank you very much indeed Lord Hunt.
Now I’d like to ask Belinda to say a few words about her experiences. Belinda contacted me over the summer and I quickly realised that she was in a pretty desperate position as so many victims of low level long term poisoning are. She even visited me in the Isle of Wight and tell me the appalling difficulties she had encountered. She is a lawyer so it was easy to help her. She has kept records and been brave and positive.
We have compelling evidence and strong reason to believe that we suffered from carbon monoxide poisoning from our gas powered boiler, since moving into a new house in 2007.
Our story highlights the problems inherent in the underfunding, under reporting and consequent under-researching of the already compelling international evidence that chronic exposure to CO has on people’s health, not to mention other gases and toxic contaminants in boiler fumes. The net result of this, in my experience, leaves the majority of the emergency services and health professionals, wholly under resourced, uninformed and ill-equipped to properly and adequately respond to victims of chronic exposure to CO, if respond at all.
Sadly, this situation had a catastrophic impact on our lives and we were left in the circumstances that were making us ill. On two occasions I found myself in the utterly terrifying and horrifying position where 2 of my 3 children stared at deaths door. With the first child I did not know the reasons behind her ill-health but with the second, the evidence I presented of a possible link to CO/boiler fumes before this, was not only wholly ignored but I was ridiculed and taunted for raising it.
Our journey illustrates the horrors victims live with as a result of this situation, more to the point, it highlights how a victims health and therefore life, is quite literally, left to deteriorate in the hands of a GP/ENGINEER (OR BOTH) who is, at worst, totally ignorant to the silent killer that CO is or at best, is largely uninformed and consequently inexperienced about the impact on health, of chronic LONG TERM exposure to LOW LEVELS of CO/boiler fumes.
Despite my whole family being ill (including our pets) and frequently going to the GP, the medics never considered CO/boiler fume poisoning, even after two gas alarms sounded a year apart of each other and our boiler finally being condemned. Sadly we got no help at all, but a lot of judgement that caused more trauma, to add to an already traumatic situation. I had no idea of where to start in order to restore our lives, after getting NO help from the authorities, despite many attempts and requests for help. I was fortunate enough to make contact with Stephanie and she put me on a path that has been instrumental in turning our lives around. To you Stephanie I am and always will be eternally grateful.
Stephanie Trotter Thank you Belinda for that moving story and for recounting your difficulties shared by numerous victims. Yet so much could be done to prevent this happening in the first place or at the very least dealing with it properly after a poisoning incident.
Now Frank Brehany of Holiday Travel Watch
I have known Frank for getting on for 20 years. I first met him at a firm of solicitors where he shone out as the only lawyer present who seemed to understand the point of view of the victim. I was delighted when he took over Brenda Wall’s Holiday Travel Watch when Brend became ill and later sadly died. Frank is someone who generously supports consumers and victims and really knows his subject.
Frank Brehany of Holiday Travel Watch
Distinguished Prize Winners, Teachers, Heroes, Ambassadors, Members of Parliament, Ladies, and Gentlemen. I would like to begin by thanking Stephanie and The Trustees of COGS for giving me the opportunity to speak here today and to congratulate them for holding yet another successful event & to join with them to commemorate and celebrate their achievements in their 20th year!
By happy coincidence, we too are celebrating our 20th year, of helping the Consumer. My journey has taken me to the four corners of the globe, dealing with complaints from booking problems, illness, toxins, corruption & suspicious deaths.
Throughout the world I have met victims, survivors & activists campaigning to right wrongs. In the UK on CO there is the valiant work of Gareth Hughes, simply seeking honesty and openness in what is contained within fuel products; Gordon and Avril Samuels who out of personal tragedy simply want the public informed of the dangers; Molly Maher lost a son and has a seriously disabled daughter – who tried and failed to obtain Justice in Spain & the UK, and then there is Stephanie! Like me, not a victim or a survivor, but nonetheless motivated to advocate for those who feel they have no voice and she does so in a responsible manner, highlighting the deficit on data, the need for Public Information and for meaningful legislation to protect the Public.
When you consider the world we live in, from aircraft, shipping, food and fuel, all of the issues causing concern have one unifying factor; Hydrocarbons.
As Consumers and Employees, we are blissfully unaware of what makes up the fuel we use, the food we eat or the air we breathe; all of us acquiesce to common phrases, clean air, clean water, fresh food, natural gas. We accept an element of risk and the sage words of our politicians and of Industry that everything is safe. Whilst we should always acknowledge the progress of initiatives, I have found, particularly in the UK that Campaigners on a wide range of issues, exist in what I call the Hourglass Vacuum; Politicians and Industry on either side with victims, survivors and activists in the middle with no real meeting of minds.
I am not a great supporter of Dominic Greive MP but I do admire him for his principles on Human Rights and International Law. Recently he was asked about pressure groups and the parliamentary process and he had this to say; “Parliament is about working collectively, moderating people’s views and coming to a consensus. We need to cooperate with each other”.
In other words, Parliament needs to facilitate opinion, taking a balanced position with Industry and with all the passions and desires of both victims/survivors, many of whom suffer with Brain Damage, Victim Syndrome, Grief or with the physical affects of exposure to HydroCarbons, with the goal of protecting Consumer health and their rights and providing a level playing field for Industry –I regret to say that in my view, there is currently no such balance in the UK CO debate!
On the other side of the coin, it’s essential that victims, survivors and activists practice objectivity and unity because their individual goals are complementary to each other. To demonstrate this point, in the cabin air quality debate, we have demonstrated that a unified lobby is an effective and challenging lobby and to the angst of Industry, it is having a global effect.
These honestly held opinions, borne out of experience, presents a challenge to all in this room; I would be happy to work with anyone to build a similar success – you must decide if you are ready to accept the challenge or continue with the generally held Campaigners view – ‘same old same old’!
To our young prize winners I say this; you have demonstrated your interest in your world and the environment you live in by taking part in this competition – many young people throughout the world have shown a similar interest on a wide range of issues – never lose this moment, treasure it and as you get older, maintain your interest in the world around you and make sure you express your views – never be frightened to shine a light in the dark corners of the world you live in.
To Stephanie and the Trustees of COGS, 20 years is a milestone, stay the course for whilst popularity is a fickle mistress, your courage on behalf of victims and survivors shines like a light for all – long may you continue!
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for listening to me.
Thank you Frank or providing the wider view of consumers’ problems and for all the time you’ve spent helping and supporting us.
I’d now like to call on Amanda O’Shea from National Grid to tell us about the work they’ve undertaken to raise awareness of CO. Amanda
National Grid – Amanda O’Shea – Speech
Good afternoon everyone, my name is Amanda O’Shea and I work for National Grids Gas Distribution.
It is a real pleasure to be asked by Stephanie to speak at this special CO Gas Safety 20th anniversary event on behalf of National Grid and the other UK Gas Distribution Networks. You cannot help but be inspired by the passion and commitment shown by Stephanie and the CO Gas Safety charity and we are all delighted to be able to continue our support for this great school poster competition. We firmly believe that by raising awareness of the dangers of CO in schools through initiatives such as this, we will both educate and empower our children and safeguard future generations against needless suffering as a result of unnecessary CO poisoning.
In my 19 years with National Grid, I have had may job roles, ranging from taking calls in the Gas Emergency call centre to dispatching work to our emergency response engineers. 18 months ago I was asked to take a lead role to support delivery of our ambition to ‘ensure that no person’s life is impacted by Carbon Monoxide’. My Initial thoughts were ‘this sound’s interesting’…… ‘A bit of project management’, ‘lots of Stakeholder engagement’ (I love to talk!) ……………yep I’m looking forward to this.
But how much did I really now about CO?
I got stuck in, feet first, task focused, but I distinctly remember a turning point. Whilst looking online to find out more about the charity we were supporting to commemorate Dominic Rodgers 21st Birthday, I stumbled across a video………I watched intently as Dominic’s mother, Stacy Rodgers told her story, describing the day that she lost her Son to Carbon Monoxide poisoning……….In just a few minutes I was moved to tears just thinking about how horrendous and unnecessary this tragedy was. Suddenly everything changed for me……….as a mother to a 3 year old son and 2 step children, it became personal.
Then came the questions about my own actions……………….…… I’m campaigning about CO awareness but do I have a CO Detector? Do I get my appliances serviced annually? The answer to both of these questions was NO! But why? If someone like me, having worked in the gas industry for 19yrs, part of the gas Emergency service & working on CO awareness campaigns, up until this point, did not take action to safe guard myself and my family then this gives some indication of the challenge we face. The importance of not just educating people but understanding the necessary steps to make it real for people and truly change behaviours. This is why the work of this and other charities is so important in educating and raising awareness of CO.
I now understand and appreciate the very real opportunity I have working for National Grid and in collaboration with Northern Gas Networks, Wales and the West Utilities and SGN, who’s commitment to this issue has put us in a position to really effect change!
Following the huge success of the 1st CO conference ‘knowledge is power’ led by Wales and the West Utilities the GDN’s joined together with IGEM to host the 2nd CO Conference in June 2014. This event focused on 3 topics, ‘Educate’, ‘Innovate’ and ‘Eradicate’ which we believe are key enablers for change.
So what are we doing to educate? – We share knowledge at every opportunity through our day to day activities as well as focusing specifically on targeted communications for vulnerable groups.
In addition to this, all the GDN’s have participated in fun, engaging and innovative initiatives, working with children and young adults that we hope this education will safeguard future generations. This has ranged from a unique 10ft puppet monster for workshops in secondary schools in the Wales and West, an education programme aimed at KS3 that will have reached 900 children in NGN, continuation of SGN working with the girl guide movement to educate on the dangers of CO and NG sponsoring a Cub Scout home safety badge which will have been completed by 22600 children.
Subsequently we see real value in our continued collaborative support of CO-Gas Safety’s Schools poster competition and are looking to take a more active role using our networks to generate more local interest and ensuring its success continues into the future.
Intelligent CO: We are working with the other GDNs to trial the use of a new type of smart Carbon Monoxide (CO) detector which sends SMS notifications of any CO alerts to a nominated mobile phone.
Smart devices are being installed in 600 properties throughout the country including social housing, student accommodation and other vulnerable people and we are excited to see the results of the pilot and the potential benefits it will bring to improve CO safety in people’s homes.
So how do we know that what we are doing is changing behaviour and making people safe? Data is Key to our success and, in addition to carrying out surveys to gage increase in knowledge and likely behaviour change, we really need to do more to get better visibility on things such as incident reduction and be able to better demonstrate that he things we are doing are reducing the number of CO poisonings and deaths .
In addition to providing annual data on unsafe installations to the Gas safe register for their gas map tool we are also looking to better link our activities to incident reductions moving forward which will be the true measure of our success.
Many Thanks for the opportunity to speak to you
Stephanie Trotter (from now on what is said is by Stephanie unless it’s obviously from someone else).
Thank you Amanda for your wonderful speech. We’re really impressed!
20 years is a very long time. When I started our younger son was 12 and now our oldest granddaughter will be 12 in only five years time. I often say that if I’d committed murder I’d be out by now but of course saving people is a lot harder.
I am grateful to those who’ve helped along the way, to our MPs particularly Crispin Blunt, Colin Breed and Mike Hancock and of course to our patrons Baroness Maddock and particularly Lord Hunt.
I am also grateful to the GDNs who have been the only light at the end of a very long and dark tunnel.
You may have noticed people filming you. They are from Kingston university. As you know we wanted and still want prime time TV warnings but of course we couldn’t afford these. So we launched the schools poster competition as something we could afford thanks to all the hard work by John O’Leary paper engineer, artist and CO victim.
However, technology moves on. Susan Scotcher’s students put together some films and they’ve been on You Tube for some time. They are good and we are going to show what we all felt was the winner – the one by Josh Turner. Those of you who enjoyed the Young Ones on TV – 1982 Rik Mayall and Nigel Planer will enjoy this – so please brush up your sense of student humour for the
Josh –I’d like to present you with a small token of our appreciation for the best film. Josh Turner.
Now a little surprise.
Thanks to the wonder of a clothes shop on the Isle of Wight, some lovely people there and to Madelaine Diamond, who although not a film student has worked her socks off with loads of input from her mother and some from me, we thought we would give it a go and maybe it’ll go viral – we can only hope. So here is our surprise. We do hope you like it.
Dogs film is shown – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WSYUchacuAE&feature=youtu.be
Well done Madelaine. If anyone would like to sponsor a new competition for a film, please don’t run me down in the rush.
Now the Awards – Thank you to British Gas for the badges and we hope they will be worn with pride. The awards will be presented by Tom Bell of Northern Gas Networks.
- Xander Helm who rescued his father Barry Helm. I would like to underline that Xander did exactly the right thing when he found Barry collapsed, by immediately getting out and running for help. If he’d stayed, then being smaller than his father, he could have collapsed and they could both have died so very well done Xander. We have to get that message out to children.
- Midwife Kerri Eilertson-Feeney saved first time mum Kirsty Channing and partner Stephen Skeggs by administering a breath test and finding levels of CO although they didn’t smoke. She then realised that it was likely to be CO from an appliance and advised Kirsty to seek the help of a registered gas engineer. Her boiler was found to be emitting CO.
- Kirsty and Stephen hoped to be here today but their baby is ill so they can’t make it. Kirsty sent me a note which she wants me to read out.
- ‘If it wasn’t for Kerry doing that carbon monoxide test me or my family members or even my baby wouldn’t be sitting here today. It really is as serious as that that’s why it’s so important to raise great awareness and continue to do these breath tests as I for one can say I never realised how serious carbon monoxide poisoning was until I went through an awful situation at the beginning of my pregnancy I will do all I can to share my story and thank you to the charity’s like this that educate people how dangerous carbon monoxide really is.’
- I read this on the train and it moved me to tears. Thank you Kirsty.
- Dr Kayleigh Packwood saved Mr and Mrs Harbottle. It is the first time I’ve been able to present an award to a GP but I’m really delighted to be able to do so. Kay has just had a baby and her mother was going to come and accept our award on her behalf but I’m delighted to say that she is here herself and wants to say a few words. Kayleigh…
Dr. Kayleigh Packwood
I urge GPs to consider CO poisoning when their patients are showing viral like symptoms for an extended period of time. Better training and awareness is required in this area for new and existing GPs.
Friends of the charity
- * Mark Aylett and Daniel Hodgson for the Guild of Master Sweeps
Mark has worked incredibly hard for the charity, helped me up Pen-Y-Fan in Wales and raised extra funds from the Guild and from friends and relatives for us. Daniel can’t be here because he’s teaching a course so Mark is kindly accepting the award for Daniel too.
- * Gary Barnes – Scotia Gas Networks
Gary was the first from the GDNs to really take notice of the danger from CO to the First Call Operators and immediately acted to put this right by providing Personal Alarm Monitors or PAMs for them. He also very kindly allowed Roland Johns to teach a course about CO from all fuels to his apprentices that raised £1,060 for us so far. Gary – I hope he managed to get here in time but if not Chris could you please come and accept this on Gary’s behalf. You all know Chris Bielby – there’s no one more involved in CO.
- *Danielle Royce and Cerys Canning – Wales & West Utilities
Danielle has been a real friend to the charity and together with Cerys has helped with the invitations and event. Thank you both so much for your kindness.
- * Leigh Greenham of COGDEM, who has always been there throughout our existence knowing the technical answer and always providing it immediately on return email even at week-ends or late at night.
- * Last but by no means least I’d like to thank Richard Banks of Tip Top Computers who has kept me from screaming many a time as I was educated BC – Before Computers, have had no lessons and have had to lurch from crisis to crisis in a steep learning curve. Rich doesn’t speak Geek (well not to me anyway) and is always kind and patient but is great fun and occasionally as cheeky to me as our sons!
I’d like to give a special thank you to Roland Johns and John O’Leary who have both done such a huge amount for the charity.
Also to my directors who support and put up with me but who dare to tell me I’m wrong – that is a hugely important function of directors and one which, although they employ huge tact in doing so, hopefully rarely shirk from their duty!
Ambassadors of CO-Gas Safety
Heather and Howard Tomlinson Heather, while her grief was still raw from the sudden death of their beloved son Ed, undertook a pilot project for the poster competition without which it wouldn’t have been a success – we learned so much. The poster competition is dedicated to the memory of their son Ed Tomlinson who died of CO abroad in 2006.
Sarah Groombridge – who has entered every year and whose pupil has nearly always won first prize! Long may she and her pupils enter the competition!
Now the winners!
Winner for Scotland, Finlay Kettles.
The Coupar Angus School
Head Teacher: Margaret Cameron.
Winner for Wales, Naomi Rahman
St Patrick’s Roman Catholic Primary
Teacher: Sarah Michael
Winner for the North of England, Sephora Ford
Sheffield High – Junior
Teacher: Sarah Groombridge
Winner for the South of England, Chihiro Nagano
Stephen Perse Foundation Junior School
Teacher Mr Gordon West (Chihiro’s teacher), Science Co-ordinator
Not wanting to take any glory from Mr. Gordon West, Chihiro spotted the competition off her own bat and sought help from her teacher. She will go far.
Thank you Lord Hunt and speakers
Thank you to all those who helped the charity this year, particularly the teachers and winners.
I’d also like to express our gratitude to all the sponsors, especially Kane.
Thank you Tom Bell for presenting the prizes
I’d like to thank my talented and beautiful daughter in law Ellie for playing the harp so wonderfully for us today. She’s far too good for background music having won world competitions. Ellie
Last but not least I’d like to thank my husband John Trotter who has supported me so brilliantly. Since he’s retired he has taken on the Denis Thatcher role, is a better cook than I am and doesn’t make nearly as much mess!
Speech by Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, patron of CO-Gas Safety at the House of Lords January 2014
Welcome to all of you and well done for getting here today to make this event.
Thank you to the many
accept the award for Daniel.sponsors, who are supporting the charity. Stephanie particularly wants me to thank Mark Oliver of Wales & West Utilities for the excellent help she has been given with the event by Danielle Royce and Cerys Canning.
It is really good to see all four of the gas emergency service providers fully supporting the poster competition to raise awareness of the dangers of CO and that British Gas is supporting the badges.
These joint efforts are real progress.
As you all know CO-Gas Safety works to prevent deaths and injury from unintentional CO, and other fuels toxins, raises awareness, lobbies for changes and helps victims and their families. CO-Gas Safety’s data is central to prevention and so to all of its work. The data has been collected, collated and published since 1995.
The data has some kind of report, or Coroner’s letter to support every entry and collects unintentional CO incidents and deaths from ALL Fuels.
The charity tries to check every death with the Coroner concerned and has built up a good relationship with the Coroners and their officers. CO-Gas Safety publishes the names of the dead on its website for anyone to check.
This data is the only data to have been validated by a statistician, Dr.Craggs and has had 18 years of input from a victim organisation that simply seeks the truth.
Yet CO-Gas Safety has had no Government funding for the data since 2010. Odd coincidence that it’s 2010.
Public Health England has kindly expressed an interest in the data to start the central database as recommended by Baroness Finlay & the All Party Parliamentary Carbon Monoxide Group in 2011.
CO-Gas Safety’s directors are willing to give its hugely valuable historical data – provided funding can be found for the charity to continue this work.
CO-Gas Safety, a victim organisation is saying that solid fuel is a far greater risk per user than gas.
CO-Gas Safety has also worked on the Energy Bill this year and all the members of a collection of victim groups, CO+Savi, unanimously agreed to put forward certain amendments.
One of the aims of these amendments was prime time TV warnings about this hidden danger and CO-Gas Safety has lobbied for these since 1995. Sadly this wasn’t achieved.
However, Baroness Finlay has achieved some amendments that will save lives – she will tell you about them now.
Baroness Finlay, co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Carbon Monoxide Group (formerly known as the All Party Parliamentary Gas Safety Group
‘I would just like to remind everyone that should the division bell sound, I and any other peers will have to leave immediately.
There have been 32 people recently taken to hospital in the Channel tunnel and the cause seems likely to be carbon monoxide poisoning. One person, a welder has been badly affected.
The Energy Act 2013
It is a huge achievement to obtain these amendments to the Energy Bill (Part of S. 150 of the Act on the screen). What is more we have managed to get the attention of the Government and Parliamentarians on this issue so that is a real achievement. I know that at the moment the amendments are limited to rental property but I won’t stop at just rental if I possibly can do more.’
S. 150 of the Energy Act was shown on the screen during Baroness Finlay’s speech.
Sadly Baroness Finlay didn’t have much of a chance to say a great deal because all the peers were called away to vote at this point.
Stephanie Trotter, OBE President & Director of CO-Gas Safety
Thank you Baroness Finlay. We are really grateful to you for your action which we are sure will save lives. We also hope this will provide an opportunity to discuss the other issues, which concern all the victim groups.
There have been some extremely effective TV campaigns – for example, Fire Kills with Julie Walters. We need a similar one for CO.
We all know of the dangers of level crossings from the TV warnings about the family cycling and playing ISpy. Please look at the back of the press pack and the pic will remind you.
What you may not know is that Network rail has put out these TV warnings in response to 9 deaths last year. These deaths are terrible but they are all known.
CO deaths – probably about 50 deaths but many more are unknown.
There are 3,500 deaths of those aged 16-64 from unknown causes every year in the UK. There is 2004 New Scientist article referenced on Page 2 in press pack. In 2011 the All Party Group recommended automatic testing for CO on death. But this still hasn’t been implemented.
CO-Gas Safety is still working on these issues.
Another issue is to improve training for all gas installers and indeed everyone who works with fuels – even wood pellets in store can emit CO. HSE has put out a warning on it’s website and there is an article (see page 4 in the press pack).
Matthew Nixon was a registered gas installer who died from CO in Macclesfield in 2010.
His mother hoped to be here today to say a few words. She really wanted to come but she is frankly too upset. She is however happy for me to read out what she would have said if she could have been here.
‘My son, Matthew was just 22 when he died of carbon monoxide poisoning from using a petrol generator to power his tools indoors.
We all miss him terribly.
What we want to do is to honour his life and to make sure that other registered gas installers know about the other fuels that can give rise carbon monoxide. The training and indeed the whole gas industry, sometimes seems to leave the other fuels out.
Carbon monoxide can kill in between one and three minutes.
Some fire fighters, commenting on deaths from smoke inhalation from a house fire, have described the speed as taking three breaths.
First breath, you don’t know there’s a problem. Second breath you suspect there might be something wrong (but unless there is smoke, you won’t even suspect this). By the third breath, you are unconscious and it’s too late to save yourself.
We hope that all training establishments for gas installers and indeed all other fuel engineers are fully warned about ALL the carbon based fuels, not just gas.’
That is what Matthew’s mother would have said.
We are grateful that Roland Johns has devised a new course which has been certificated by BPEC. Roland and Mally Butters of BPEC will both say something about this course now.
Please note that the following were the main points from Roland’s speech and he talked us through them and explained how the new course was devised.
- Existing PowerPoint Presentation for the school’s poster competition by Stephanie used as a start point
- Developed with more technical content to suit engineers and all groups
- Dedicated to the memory of the tragic death of Matthew Nixon
- All illustrations by children’s illustrator and CO victim John O’Leary, who kindly gives us his time free of charge
- Trialled at Lincoln College, Lincoln City Council, Northern Gas Networks, Moore’s Estate Agents Leeds, Patients Participation Group in Lincoln
- Wanted the package to be recognised by an industry Awarding Body
- BPEC kindly offered their support and we now have a certificated course, in November I trained 12 trainers at BPEC to train out the course in their assessment centres
BPEC are a awarding body specialising in providing operatives working in the building services engineering industry with the skills and expertise necessary to meet the high industry standards
We work closely with a nationwide network of employers, colleges and private training providers to enable them to offer a range of quality training materials, assessments and qualifications.
BPEC are dedicated to promoting education and lifelong learning and seeks to encourage individuals to undertake further training to continuously update their skills, both for personal development and to keep them abreast of industry technological advances and regulatory requirements.
With that in mind we were delighted when approached to work with the CO Gas Safety to help them develop the CO awareness course.
Our next stage of this is to develop an app to allow instant access via phones and tablets to the dangers of CO, this will follow our two other successful apps which have been well received.
It has been a pleasure working alongside people who care and want to make a difference to people’s lives by helping then understand the dangers associated with CO and by providing this awareness course it has gone some way to doing this.
We would like to wish the CO Gas Safety every success in the future
Stephanie Trotter again.
Thank you Roland and Mally
Now I’d like to call on Roland Wessling, who you may recall is a victim himself and made a very moving speech last year at our event about the death of his beloved partner Hazel when they took a cold to the touch barbecue inside their tent. Roland is undertaking a great deal of research at Cranfield university. He wants to tell you about how CO and the other toxins impact on the UK Population.
Roland Wessling, Cranfield university and CO victim
(CO+Savi (group of victims and victim groups) suggests that the following statement(s) is/are being used instead or at least in conjunction with any existing numbers in presentations, press releases, publications, etc.)
We suggest that this statement agreed by members of CO+Savi is used in press packs, press releases etc.
There is currently no conclusive and comprehensive way of accurately establishing the actual number of people harmed to whatever level by carbon monoxide and other toxins (CO+ for short). It is recognised that there are many sources of data collated over the years. However, this data is scientifically inconclusive at this point in time. We know that some people can suffer temporary illness, irreversible chronic ill health or death as a consequence of exposure to either low-level, chronic and high-level acute CO+ poisoning. Unfortunately, we do not know how many more are affected and we have no way of objectively and responsibly estimating the true figures.
There is also a long version which has not quite been finalised yet. When it has been finalised, it will be put on several websites.
Stephanie Trotter again.
Thank you Roland. It is wonderful to see you here and looking so well after your recent operation.
I’d now like to ask Eileen Brown to very briefly speak on behalf of Northern Gas Networks and their work
Eileen Brown of Northern Gas Networks
My name is Eileen Brown, and I’m joining you today from Northern Gas Networks, the gas distribution network for the North of England.
Firstly, I’d like to thank Stephanie for inviting Northern Gas Networks to speak here today – it’s truly an honour. Stephanie has a real passion and drive to raise awareness of the dangers of Carbon Monoxide and she works tirelessly to gain the support of like minded organisations. We are delighted once again to be sponsoring the schools poster competition.
Raising awareness of the dangers of Carbon Monoxide poisoning is something that the gas distribution networks across the country – England, Scotland and Wales are working tirelessly to address. I, like Stephanie, am passionate about making a difference to the lives of our customers and taking steps to stamp out the silent killer, CO.
The foundation of our work within Northern Gas Networks is to act locally and influence nationally. We want to make sure that people who live and work within our Network are aware of the dangers of Carbon Monoxide, and know how to protect themselves, both in their home, and also when they’re pursuing outdoor activities.
When you are trying to make a difference in an area such as Carbon Monoxide awareness, there is a real danger of trying to target everyone at once and not having the desired impact. At one of our stakeholder workshops, our stakeholders told us that they wanted us to focus our efforts on high risk groups such as the student population and vulnerable customers. Over the last year, we have developed our vulnerable customers’ campaign, and have educated over 1000 customers about the dangers of Carbon Monoxide.
Not only have we educated them, we have gathered real data to measure their understanding of Carbon Monoxide and how it is produced types of appliances, demographics as well as the symptoms to look out for. The data also provides insight into the demographics of most at risk groups, as well as the most common causes of Carbon Monoxide poisoning. We are working together with all the Gas Distribution Networks (GDNs) to collate and report this information to Ofgem, however, this data is there for anyone who may find it useful – GPs, healthcare sector Health Service and dare I say the DECC? On the student front, you may have heard of our interactive app based game called iCop, designed to target 18-24 year olds living in rented accommodation. We have taken iCop to university fresher’s fairs across the Network, and there have been over 20,000 downloads since the app was launched in 2012.
We have also invested over £2m on equipping our engineers with intelligent CO detection units called Gascoseekers. The Gascoseekers can identify if CO is present in the atmosphere, and also the level at which it is present.
We believe that the number of CO related deaths reported is low and only the tip of the iceberg of a much bigger problem. We do know that prolonged exposure to small amounts of CO does pose a significant health risk.
I firmly believe that the work we are doing to educate our customers and capture the data is really improving the safety of our customers, as well as protecting our engineers against CO. Since the launch introduction of Gascoseekers earlier in 2013 we have detected twice as many occurrences of CO through routine emergency visits (82 in 2012; 170 in 2013). I believe this number will continue to increase and will ultimately lead to our communities being in safer hands.
But I’m not here just to talk about the work that Northern Gas Networks are doing. More importantly, I’m here to represent all the Gas Distribution Networks (GDNs).
Nationally, my colleagues from each of the GDNs are working equally hard to keep their customers and communities safe. From the superb work being carried out by Wales and the West to map CO hot spots, to target vulnerable areas, and take the safety message to county shows, to Chris Bielby who carries out valuable research supported by Scotia Gas Networks, and the innovative ways that National Grid is using social media to promote Carbon Monoxide safety messages, alongside their enduring work with The Scout Association. We are all relentless in our focus to reduce the number of deaths and injuries caused by Carbon Monoxide.
To refer back to a comment made last year by Gary Barnes, Director of Corporate Services at Scotia Gas Networks, there is still much more to do, and we must do it together.
As a group of GDNs, we are working collaboratively to make sure we understand which initiatives are working, so that we can recognise and adopt industry best practice. As individual companies, we can achieve great things, but together we can really help to drive momentum forward.
This year we will be joining forces and holding a national Carbon Monoxide conference to gain a national view on the work we are doing. Alongside the superb work that is led by Stephanie, GISG, Barry Sheerman MP, and all the other CO lobbyists, there is a positive feeling that the focus has never been greater than now. So let’s carry on working together to make sure that Carbon Monoxide is a danger of the past.
Stephanie Trotter again
Now the Awards – Thank you to British Gas for the badges and we hope they will be worn with pride. Tha awards will be presented by Mark Oliver of Wales & West Utilities.
1. Beverley Durber, Nurse, who saved Veronica Freelove
Veronica attended a Lifestyle health check which included a CO test which was higher than it should have been for a non smoker. Beverley immediately told Veronica to have all her appliances checked. Veronica called the gas emergency service number and National Grid attended and an appliance was condemned.
2. Trish Hines midwife who saved Kate Newton.
Trish picked up an unusually high level of CO during a routine test of Kate.
Kate said, ‘it is frightening to think what could have happened to us or to our baby if this hadn’t been picked up by Trish when it was. She literally saved our family and we are so grateful to her.’
3. Lawrence Ball who saved Mr. Jim Whitehall
Jim said, I was told the flue was too short and I could have been poisoned by dangerous fumes. Jim quite possibly saved my life and my dog’s life. It could easily have ended in tragedy.’
When I spoke to Lawrence about this he said ‘I was only doing my job.’
All our heroes ‘were only doing their job’ but what a difference doing that job properly has made!
I would like to think they have inspired all those attending today, especially those working in the fuel industry – and our politicians of course!
Friends of the charity
John O’Leary. John and his wife Irma are both artists and both suffered from carbon monoxide poisoning. John is a children’s illustrator and paper engineer and he creates amazing books as well as
illustrations. He has drawn all the pics for the poster competition and for the new course for registered gas installers. Thankfully, he chooses the winners.
He is also very willing to help me in many other ways for example advising on the press pack and has an incredible computer that can do almost anything. Nothing is ever impossible or too much trouble for John. A true friend to the charity.
1. Roland Johns
Without his endless help, expertise and patience the course for registered gas installers simply wouldn’t have happened. Thank you.
2. Mally Butters of BPEC
Without the help of BPEC we would never have got the course certificated and what a nice organisation to work with. Thank you.
It is always particularly rewarding for us when pupils don’t just enter the competition but also either do so off their own bat or show a real interest in telling others about the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning. I am sure that those who do such things aged 10 or 11 will, not only go far in life, but will improve the world for everyone else too.
North of England
Daniel Ely. Age at entry 11
Kirton Primary School, Boston, Lincs
Teacher: Mrs Sharon Clarke
South of England
Amber Nabney. Age at entry 11.
Kinson Primary, Bournemouth
Winner for Scotland
Our Lady & St Anne’s Primary, Hamilton
Winner for Wales
Llantrisant Welsh Community School
Teacher: Mr Gethin Jones
Thank you Lord Hunt and Baroness Finlay. Thank you to all those who helped the charity this year, particularly the teachers and winners.
I’d also like to express our gratitude to all the sponsors, British Gas, Kane International, Scotia Gas Networks, Northern Gas Networks, National Grid and Wales & West Utilities. Thank you Eileen for your succinct but excellent speech.
Thank you Mark for presenting the prizes and for your kindness to me and the charity this year. Danielle and Cerys have been
brilliantly helpful and always in good spirits.
I’d like to thank my talented and beautiful daughter in law Ellie for playing the harp so wonderfully for us today. She’s far too good for background music having won world competitions.
Last but not least I’d like to thank my husband John Trotter who has supported me so well.
Now I’d like to ask Lord Hunt to close the speeches.
I would finally like to pay a huge tribute to Stephanie Trotter for the amazing contribution she has made in leading Co-Gas Safety. I first met her in 2006 when I was Health and Safety Minister and I was immediately impressed with her passion, determination and leadership. That so much has been achieved in the last few years is very much down to Stephanie and the great team she has built. Long may she continue to lead us in this hugely important cause.
Poster Competition: Speeches at Prize Giving Event at the House of Lords January 2013.
Speech by Lord Hunt of Kings Heath
Welcome and on behalf of CO-Gas Safety, thank you for braving the weather to attend today.
We know many of you have travelled a long way to be with us and your support is appreciated.
Firstly we’d like to thank our sponsors, who make the poster competition and this event possible – they are;
Scotia Gas Networks;
Wales & West Utilities;
and Northern Gas Networks.
And also Kane International, which has stood by the charity since its launch in 1995, providing advice and support.
As well as the prize giving, CO-Gas Safety is today unveiling its data, collected on deaths and injuries caused by unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning.
In the last 17 years, there have been over 4,428 near misses and 643 people have died as a result of CO poisoning. Sadly the charity knows this figure is just the tip of the iceberg.
The Department of Health estimates that each year 50 people die from CO, and a further 4,000 visit A & E, in England & Wales alone.
The cost to the taxpayer of CO is estimated at almost £150 million per year.
CO-Gas Safety’s data has recently been validated by a statistician, Dr. Craggs, who hoped to be with us today and she gives the charity a good report.
Please note that CO-Gas Safety’s data is the only data on CO to have been validated in this way.
The benefit of studying the data is not only to obtain figures but to find trends and common denominators, to help prevent future deaths.
Yet, despite the huge wealth of the fuel industry, sadly no funding for CO-Gas Safety to continue its data collection and valuable work has been forthcoming.
CO-Gas Safety is delighted that the gas emergency service providers are now funding the school’s poster competition.
However, the charity has always pressed for prime time TV warnings about the dangers of CO from all fuels, all appliances and in all scenarios.
The charity is hoping that the Energy Bill, now at the Committee stage in the House of Commons, will provide an opportunity to raise the issue of a levy on the fuel industry, which could pay for these warnings and fund much needed research.
The charity also wishes to see new laws introduced, for the gas emergency service to carry and use equipment to test gas appliances for CO. This is a no brainer.
Following the shocking death of registered gas installer, Matthew Nixon, aged 22, CO-Gas Safety is also now providing materials for teaching aspiring gas installers, after it was revealed that no such standardised materials exist.
Roland Johns, retired from British Gas, along with his retired colleague Dave Williams, kindly offered to help. Together with material from the school’s poster competition and pictures drawn by John O’Leary, a power point presentation for use by training colleges is now on the CO-Gas Safety website. It took a charity to do this.
(Slide was shown from the material that can be downloaded from http://www.co-gassafety.co.uk/trainers_of_gas_installers.html)
One of the trends evident in the recent data is that barbecue and campsite deaths seem to be increasing.
Roland Wessling has very kindly agreed to talk to us about his experiences and the tragic loss of his partner Hazel Woodhams, who died from CO caused by a barbeque, in July 2011.
I lost my partner Hazel Woodhams in July 2011 to CO poisoning and almost died myself. I somehow survived but suffered severe injuries. What loosing Hazel means to me, cannot be put into words, let alone into numbers. What happened to me, can.
As a direct result of the CO poisoning, I spend 2 weeks in intensive care, a further 2 weeks in hospital after that, I had 8 operations on my right arm, resulting in a scar with 80 stitches, 70 cm or 28 inches long, 6 hours in 3 sessions in a hyperbolic chamber at a simulated 30 meter depth to get the CO out of my system, I had 6 months of physio- and hydrotherapy up to 5 times a week and, to date, just under 14,500 painkillers to deal with the aftermath of the injuries.
All this is the result of taking a small, cold-to-the-touch charcoal BBQ grill into a large tent before going to bed. We were both highly educated people, both had MSc degrees in forensic sciences, Hazel worked as a Scene of Crime Officers for West Yorkshire Police and I teach forensic science at the UK Defence Academy at Cranfield University. We should have known that there was a risk of CO and other harmful gases from the charcoal but we didn’t. We had a CO detector in our house but that was not enough to save Hazel’s life.
CO can threaten in many different environments, such as tents, boats or at home, and kills almost instantly. Without proper education, greater awareness and safer products, more and more people will die as the result of CO poisoning and some of these cases will not even be attributed to CO. I was arrested when the police arrived on site. What they saw was a couple, one dead, the other injured and I appeared to be ‘drugged’. I was de-arrested six hours later when the hospital confirmed the CO level in my blood. And I do not blame the police officers on the scene in the slightest but the words ‘Roland Wessling, I arrest you for the murder of Hazel Woodhams’ will always be with me. The thought that anyone could contemplate that I killed the person I loved most in the world, is completely overwhelming.
CO killed Hazel and almost killed me. In the 12 months following Hazel’s death at least 7 others died from CO poising in a camping environment alone. Several family members were arrested, just like me. I therefore fully support groups, such as CO-Gas Safety, in their efforts to minimise the devastating effects of CO and other poison gases. I myself am working with my university on setting up a 3-year research programme and hope that this will add to everyone else’s efforts.
Roland Wessling Chairman of the Board of
Mark Oliver, Director of Business Services at Wales & West Utilities, Introduced the following slides:
Barry Sheerman MP, co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Carbon Monoxide Group
Gave a speech but in Barry’s true style this was off the cuff
Speaking Notes: Prepared beforehand by John Arnold of Policy Connect were:-
- Well done to the winners
- We’ve been working closely with Stephanie for many years now.
- She is a great campaigner – driving the debate on carbon monoxide
- We have recently been working together on CO safety in the energy bill and support her recommendations for amendments.
- We will be campaigning for carbon monoxide safety with together with Stephanie.
- The APPCOG agree with Stephanie –carbon monoxide awareness is vital for improving safety
- This event is important as highlighting the dangers to children helps ensure carbon monoxide poisoning is stamped out in the future.
We do recall that he commented that it was really good to see so many young people in Parliament and that they should remember that it was their Parliament.
Gary Barnes, Director of Corporate Services Scotia Gas Networks
My name is Gary Barnes and I work for SGN. Firstly let me thank Stephanie for inviting me here today and I am very pleased to be here. We in SGN have been very active in promoting awareness and understanding of the dangers of CO, to our employees and our customers, and are delighted to sponsor the schools CO poster competition once again this year.
Lord Hunt said in his opening address that he sensed a real change in the momentum in the work to address CO issues and that certainly resonated with me. I have been involved with CO for almost fifteen years now and when I think back to those early days, when it was a challenge to get us all around the table to even talk about it, We have come a long way since then. Over the last few years, I have sensed a growing change in attitudes; I can certainly say that we in SGN have adopted a far more inclusive approach to our role in dealing with CO, than just mere bureaucratic compliance, and this attitude is, I’m sure, shared by my colleagues in the other gas network companies, as Mark Oliver of Wales & West Utilities has explained so eloquently today. Sadly, I don’t have the same lavish slides as he, but I do notice that we appear to be wearing similar ties!
The focus over a number of years has been very much on CO incidents attributable to natural gas, and rightly so. But I’m proud to say that the reduction in fatalities and serious injuries from natural gas has been remarkable, thanks to the efforts of all of us in the natural gas industry and organisations represented here today. Barry Sheerman talked about Stephanie’s great work and how her persistence has, and will continue to have, a galvanising effect on all of us involved in reducing CO incidents, from whatever fuel type. I have to pay tribute to Stephanie because without people like her, who are prepared to lead, to work selflessly and tirelessly to get people to do things, we would probably not be where we are today.
However, whilst the reduction in natural gas incidents is indeed remarkable, we must avoid complacency. There is still much to do and we must do it together. It’s not hard is it? I’m sure we all agree, it’s about doing the right thing, and I believe that there is a growing collective desire from all quarters to do so, which is great news.
All of us in the room today have been touched by CO in different ways. Some of us, like me, professionally, others for far more personal and tragic reasons. However, all of us want the same thing; to make sure that people understand the dangers and don’t die through ignorance. I spent five minutes on the internet a week or so ago and found five examples from the last year of either death or serious injury caused by CO. Only one of those was natural gas, the others were from barbecues. It’s easy for us to make assumptions about peoples’ understanding, but clearly, there are people from all backgrounds who don’t know about CO or the risks, so we have much to do. A worrying trend that we are noticing is that of CO incidents from unusual sources; we have been called to incidents involving tandoori charcoal ovens and petrol generators recently.
We have a growing collective desire to get this right, so let’s continue to work together and make CO poisoning a thing of the past. It’s going to take time, but we can and will do it. GISG has promoted CO issues for many years and it remains high on our agenda. The work of CO-Gas Safety, all the other CO charities, GISG, Barry Sheerman, the Gas Industry and all the other organisations and individuals in the room today will drive us to our goal and all of us are absolutely committed to the cause. But today is about celebrating success and the achievements of the children who have painted these colourful posters. I think that it’s marvellous that through this great competition, these youngsters have not only learned about the dangers of CO for themselves, but they have educated their parents and families, and that they will also be able to educate their own children when they grow up.
Gary then presented the prizes.
Stephanie Trotter, OBE, President & Director of CO-Gas Safety
Thank you to all our kind sponsors. The Gas Emergency service companies and Ofgem have given us support and indeed hope. To the teachers and pupils who’ve made this event possible and fun.
To Lord Hunt for kindly agreeing to become our patron.
To everyone who has helped and supported the charity this year and through the long years since 95. I’d particularly like to thank Frank Brehany of Holiday Travel Watch.
Thanks to Roland Johns & Dave Williams for writing the material to help aspiring registered gas installers undersand CO fully & to John O’Leary for the illustrations.
I’d also like to thank my beautiful & talented daughter in law, Eleanor Turner for so kindly playing the harp brilliantly. She’s far too good for background music – it’s a bit like asking Pavlova to join the chorus or Beyonce to sing in a backing group.
I’d also like to thank my long suffering family especially my husband, John. Thank you to all the directors particularly, Paul, Don and Jonathan who feel almost like family now!
Last but most importantly, thank you all for attending today despite the weather. You are all determined courageous people, particularly those affected by CO. Let us hope that finally those who sit in Parliament vote to take proper measures to stop these avoidable deaths and injuries.
At the event at the House of Lords on the 31st January, speeches were given by Baroness Maddock, patron of CO-Gas Safety, who outlined her work with the charity during the past 17 years, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, previous Minister for DWP responsible for HSE in 2005 and who commissioned a study by Dr. Ben Croxford into carbon monoxide in 2006 and Denis Kerby, of Scotia Gas Networks, who outlined the work of Scotia Gas Networks in providing Personal Alarm Monitors to its employees who provide part of the gas emergency service.