Portable Gas Appliance Safety Precautions

Please forgive us for the slightly dry topic, but the latest statistics show that cases of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning caused by portable gas appliances on boats are on the up. With the possible consequence of the misuse or lack of proper maintenance of portable gas appliances so severe, we thought this was an area which needed to be swiftly addressed.

Given the recent publicity the threat of carbon monoxide in people’s homes has received from the press, the vast majority of you will be aware that CO is an odourless, colourless and tasteless gas, and as such has been dubbed ‘the silent killer’, as people are completely unaware they are at risk.

It has long been understood that boat engines and onboard generators on houseboats are a potentially fatal source of carbon monoxide. But now the number of people being poisoned by their portable gas appliances is outstripping both of these sources, as many people are simply unaware of the risks they face.

The best advice when contemplating the use of portable gas appliances onboard your boat, is not to. If there is any alternative then you should use it. If you’re only planning a short voyage but would like a hot toddy to warm your cockles, then take a flask. If you’re going to be out past dark, then take an LED light or battery powered torch rather than a gas lantern.

house boats
Image is licensed under CC Attribution

If you have a cabin onboard and you’re planning a longer trip where you’d like to prepare meals whilst at sea, then rather than using a portable gas stove, one of the main causes of carbon monoxide poisoning, you should seriously think about the installation of a marine spirit stove, which removes the risk of a CO build up.

When voyaging on the UK’s many inland waterways, although portable gas appliances are permitted onboard your vessel, this does come with strict constraints. All gas canisters carried on the boat should be stowed in self-draining lockers or in the open air so that if any gas were to leak it can flow safely overboard.

Perhaps with the weather as it is now, the temptation of an onboard barbecue is not quite as strong as during the summer months. But regardless of how hungry you are, or how fantastic the weather, NEVER barbecue onboard a boat. Not only will you greatly increase the risks of carbon monoxide poisoning, you will also expose yourself to the risk of a fire.

Here are some bullet points to drill home the salient points of this post:
  • Use alternatives to gas powered appliances whenever possible;
  • Check the condition of gas canisters. If the seals or the canisters themselves are damaged then they should not be used;
  • Read the instructions that come with portable gas appliances before use;
  • Never barbecue onboard your boat;
  • If possible only use portable gas appliances whilst onshore;
  • Keep gas canisters or appliances with gas canisters attached in self-draining lockers or on deck where leaking gas can easily escape.
Charlie Maine
About the Author:

Charlie Maine is an employee of Marine Scene, one of the UK’s leading online retailers of marine chandlery and sailing clothes.

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