Energy and Climate Change CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by CoGDEM (SMR122)

Please accept this submission in specific regard to the installation of gas Smart Meters by Operatives. CoGDEM is the Council of Gas Detection & Environmental Monitoring, a UK-based trade association representing manufacturers and service providers in the field of gas detection safety apparatus.

Executive Summary

Smart Meter Operatives face a serious risk of death or compromise to their health and safety from carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning, unless equipped with suitable equipment to detect CO.

The Problem

The installation of gas Smart Meters in every relevant home presents a serious health and safety workplace atmosphere challenge to Smart Meter Operatives who may be exposed to harmful levels of carbon monoxide (CO), a poisonous deadly gas emitted from faulty cooking and heating appliances powered by any carbon-based fuel that burns (coal, gas, oil, petrol, wood etc.).

As CO cannot be sensed using human senses, it defies logic that Smart Meter Operatives, after replacing a gas meter, must relight each gas appliance connected to it without currently having any requirement to wear any personal monitoring equipment for CO.

We submit that all Smart Meter Operatives should be issued with suitable instruments which can detect CO and alarm when an unsafe situation occurs.

Such instruments are now worn by all Gas Emergency Service Providers—first responders entering properties where gas leaks or CO alarm activations were reported or suspected—even though previous risk assessments concluded properties would be free of CO by the time the responder arrived at the scene. The simple reality is these assessments were wrong, evidenced by the reporting of Scotia Gas Networks and Northern Gas Networks on the number of CO incidents causing instruments to detect unsafe levels of CO were present, despite ESPs believing themselves to be in a safe situation.

The UK’s Fire & Rescue Services are also identifying homes at risk of CO poisoning by issuing their staff with personal CO monitoring instruments. A study conducted by Liverpool John Moores University in 2011used data from Home Fire Safety Visits by Merseyside FRS and West Midlands FRS. They measured CO levels in 109 homes over a number of weeks: the study found that 24 homes had CO levels greater than 50 ppm (parts per million)—a level in which symptoms of poisoning, such as headaches, tiredness, and drowsiness can be experienced. A further 53 homes contained CO levels between 10 and 50 ppm.

A quote from the study stated: “Also the properties in Liverpool were across the whole demographic of the city and showed that the problem with CO safety and awareness crosses all social boundaries and that the potential risk to CO poisoning is far greater than what was previously thought.”

Parliamentary Interest in Carbon Monoxide (CO)

The All Party Parliamentary Carbon Monoxide Group’s recent inquiry, “Preventing Carbon Monoxide Poisoning”, heard evidence that carbon monoxide poisoning causes 50 deaths a year (revised to 40 in the latest report by the Cross Government Group on Gas Safety and Carbon Monoxide Awareness), 200 serious injuries, and 4,000 minor injuries—which costs the Department for Health in England and Wales approximately £178 million a year in medical and care costs, as well as creating immeasurable human suffering.

The Solution

The Gas Distribution Networks, Fire & Rescue Services and some Paramedics are issued with small electronic detectors that clip to an operatives clothing, pocket or belt and alarm when thresholds of CO are detected. None of these home visitors face the same risk as the gas Smart Meter Operative, who in the course of his work must relight all gas appliances, so we feel it is vital that the Operatives are properly equipped. Inevitably, some of the appliances that they relight will not have been serviced or maintained for a considerable time, and pose a substantive risk of harmful CO emissions.

May 2013

Prepared 26th July 2013