Saturday, 17 October 2015

Coroner fears future carbon monoxide deaths in holiday homes

FRESH action is being demanded to protect holidaymakers from carbon monoxide poisoning – including a new ‘central register’ to compel tour operators to keep up-to-date information on gas and appliances at all hotels and holiday homes.

The government is being urged to back European Union (EU) controls on gas boilers by the coroner – David Hinchliff – who investigated how two British children died from carbon monoxide poisoning while on holiday in Corfu in 2006. He found that the deaths were caused by a faulty boiler. Thomas Cook was also found to have breached its duty of care.

Mr Hinchliff raised fears of ‘future deaths’ unless radical steps were taken. His call comes a year after the government rejected Europe-wide safety rules on holiday accommodation, warning it would impose ‘an unnecessary cost on tourism firms in England’.

In an official report – seen by the Mail on Sunday – the coroner called on ministers to ‘draft, instigate and implement EU legislation on gas installations and carbon monoxide safety’. Mr Hinchliff also called on Thomas Cook to be ‘at the forefront’ of the industry’s drive to improve standards.

The coroner also called for:

  • Safety checks to be carried out by qualified health and safety specialists – not ‘often inexperienced and overworked’ tour reps 
  • Publicity campaigns to encourage tourists to take portable carbon monoxide detectors on holiday 
  • All brochures to contain ‘clear and easy-to-understand’ warnings about the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning. 

Regulations that have been accepted by the British government come into force this month (October) and require owners of rented properties to install and maintain carbon monoxide and smoke alarms, but they apply only to rented properties that have solid fuel burning devices – not gas or oil – and they are silent on holiday accommodation.

Says Frank Brehany, consumer director at HolidayTravelWatch: ‘This is extremely disappointing. We have been engaged for several years with campaigners, in arguing for a better regulatory environment to protect consumers and homeowners. I regret to say that, with some notable exceptions, that the political will in Westminster is weak. In the UK, across a wide variety of accommodation types, holidaymakers will continue to be at risk of being exposed to the effects of carbon monoxide, simply because of a desire not to over-regulate.’

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