4 vital steps to take if you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning

Contrary to popular belief, gas detectors are not classified as Category 3 Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Weird right? But that doesn’t mean that they’re not important. They provide an effective warning system for workers operating in dangerous environments, so deciding on the type of gas detection system for your business isn’t always a decision you can make off the cuff.


About 50 deaths and hundreds of injuries each year are attributed to this ‘silent killer’ – a silent, poisonous gas that’s produced by incomplete burning of carbon fuels like natural gas or liquefied petroleum gas (LPG). Like many toxic gases it’s colourless and odourless, and one of the reasons it’s so deadly is because initially, its symptoms are often easy to mistake for something else. That means it’s not uncommon for those affected to become seriously ill before the cause is properly identified.

All this is exactly why having a reliable gas leak detector is essential for any home or workplace; prompt carbon monoxide detection and swift remedial action can help save someone’s life. So, if you suspect that someone is suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning, here’s what you should do first.

Identify the physical symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning

Carbon monoxide poisoning can be identified through several symptoms it may induce in people or animals affected. The six main symptoms include:

1. Headaches
2. Dizziness
3. Nausea
4. Breathlessness
5. Collapsing
6. Loss of consciousness

Notably, some of these symptoms aren’t hugely unusual or extreme when taken in isolation. That’s a big part of the danger associated with carbon monoxide poisoning – namely the early warning signs can be easily mistaken for something else, like over-tiredness or exertion. All too often, the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are blamed on the effects of a common virus, or even a bad hangover, even by those affected.

However, if you’re affected by carbon monoxide poisoning, what’s actually happening is that the gas is building up in your bloodstream, gradually replacing the oxygen in your blood. That prevents your blood from carrying out its main task of carrying oxygen around your body, and if your cells don’t get enough oxygen, they will start to fail, and die. Instances of long-term exposure over days, weeks or months can eventually result in paralysis, brains damage, or in some cases, even death.

worker with a headache

What to do when you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning

If you or one of your colleagues suspect you’re experiencing symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, here are the most important steps to take immediately.

1. Turn off all gas appliances and get out

Your very first priority should be to get as far away from the source of the leak as possible. If you’re able to turn off the gas on your way out, it’s worth doing so, but if it will take too long or it’s in a difficult position to reach, leave it for a qualified professional later on. Above all though, make sure that you leave the affected area as soon as you physically can. Even short-term exposure can be enough to cause serious health repercussions.

2. Ventilate the area

Similarly, if you have time to ventilate the area on your way out, by all means do so. However, don’t do it at all costs – you can easily open some doors, windows and access points from relative safety once you’re outside the property. Again, if it’s too dangerous, or you can already feel the effect on your health, leave it for the Gas Safety technicians later on.

3. Get medical help

As soon as you’re outside, whether or not the building is now ventilated, make sure to see a doctor as soon as possible. They will be able to give you a breath test or a blood test that will tell you exactly how much of the toxin has entered your system, and take an appropriate medical response. If carbon monoxide has been detected in your blood stream, everyone should remain well clear until allowed by HSE.

4. Call an expert

If you think there might be an immediate danger to anyone in the vicinity, call a Gas Safe engineer to come and evaluate the situation, so that they can take steps to resolve the issue in a safe and efficient way. You can do this by calling the Gas Emergency Helpline on 0800 111 999, or use this link to find an engineer in your location.

Only after the site has been cleared by a Gas Safe engineer will it become safe and permissible to enter again.

Prevent it from happening again

Once the situation has been safely dealt with, one of the top priorities should be to evaluate what went wrong, and what steps can be taken to minimise the chances of it happening again. Carbon monoxide leaks can often be traced back to boilers, cookers, heaters, and gas fires which may have been incorrect fitted, or not properly serviced. They can also be the result of flues, chimneys or vents that are blocked or poorly maintained, so when you’re inspecting the surrounding area, those are good places to look at first.

And of course, one of the most important steps to safeguarding human health is to ensure that you have a robust and reliable carbon monoxide detector. That’s exactly where we can help here at Gas Alarm Systems. With more than 15 years of experience behind us, we’re market-leading experts in the design, development and maintenance of gas leak detection equipment, and our extensive range includes a number of carbon monoxide detectors to keep your premises safe.

Feel free to take a look at our fixed products or portable products with these links, or if you have any questions or need any advice, by all means call us on 01423 862240, and we’ll be happy to see how we can help.