New research shows that despite plenty of publicity surrounding the dangers of carbon monoxide, 4 out of 5 people in the UK are unaware of the risks posed by summer barbecues.

Recent research has revealed that the majority (80%) of people do not identify CO poisoning as a potential danger when barbecuing, instead selecting food poisoning (67%), burns (51%), child safety (49%), garden fires (29%) and drunken accidents (27%) as the main barbecue hazards.

With half the nation (52%) planning on barbecuing an average of five times for family and friends in 2017, Gas Safe Register has issued a stark reminder to be aware of the symptoms of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.


Plants before people…

Despite being a potential killer, CO poisoning was placed only slightly ahead of concerns about damaging the garden or plants (19%) when barbecuing.

Known as ‘the silent killer’, CO gas has no colour, taste or smell and can have fatal consequences. It’s important to remember that the danger DOESN’T END when your flames go out – every year there’s at least one family that makes the headlines for not knowing this and becoming seriously ill as a result. It doesn’t matter whether you use gas or charcoal, the effects are the same.


..It doesn’t matter what you are cooking….

Here’s a reminder from last summer – In August 2016, one family thought they would be safe to just bring the barbecue inside their tent… they were not having a barbecue, just cooking breakfast and it had started to rain. After a relatively short time, two of the occupants became unwell, prompting the call to the ambulance service, who had to take all five family members to hospital with suspected carbon monoxide poisoning.

Illness is not a nice end to a family holiday, but this family got off lightly.


…Don’t assume the porch is safe…

In 2013, teenager Hannah Thomas-Jones parents wanted to keep her warm, they didn’t bring a humble bucket barbecue, which was only smouldering into the tent itself. However, they brought it into the porch to keep her warm. The whole family suffered carbon monoxide poisoning as the toxic gases collected in the tent. Unfortunately Hannah didn’t survive and the rest of the family only survived after hospital treatment.


….don’t be fooled when the flames go out.

In 2011, Hazel Wessling and Roland Woodhams celebrated her 30th birthday with a camping trip.

Hazel was an experienced scenes-of-crime officer, and knew about the hazards of carbon monoxide.  In fact, they had a carbon monoxide alarm in their home, but they had not thought to bring it with them on their trip.

“We were doing all the cooking, nice and safe, outside the tent,” Roland explained.

However, after it cooled they decided to bring the barbecue inside the tent to protect it from rain and passers-by.

“The barbecue was cold to the touch. There was no smoke coming off it, no glowing, it seemed to be completely inactive,” added Roland

When the BBQ is lit, the carbon monoxide being emitted is converted into relatively harmless carbon dioxide. Once the flame has gone out carbon monoxide continues to be produced and is no longer burnt off.  Inside a tent, the carbon monoxide can quickly reach toxic levels.  An alarm could have prevented tragedy.

Roland woke up to find Hazel dead beside him, and he was himself very dangerously ill.

“I remember waking up in the morning feeling extremely sick, extremely disorientated. I can honestly say I never felt worse in my life,” recalls Roland.  “I started screaming for help but we had picked a particular part of the campsite that was very secluded. Nobody heard me.”

Eventually Roland did summon help and was rushed to hospital, where treatment in a hyperbaric chamber saved his life.  He now tries to alert others to the dangers of BBQs, even after the flames are extinguished.


BBQ Safety tips

For many people a BBQ is a stalwart of camping – so here’s some tips from Gas Safe Register to help you have fun and barbecue safely:

  • Never use a barbecue inside your home.
  • Don’t take a smouldering or lit barbecue into a tent, caravan or cabin.  Even if it’s raining and it’s an expensive barbecue.
  • Even if you’ve finished cooking, your barbecue can still give off fumes, so keep it outside for several hours afterwards
  • Always ensure you can see your lit barbecue and don’t leave it lit whilst sleeping
  • Use your barbecue in accordance with the operating instructions
  • Be aware of the signs and symptoms of CO poisoning – headaches, nausea, breathlessness, dizziness, collapse and loss of consciousness.

Even if you have a CO monitor, you still need to follow the safety rules.


Jonathan Samuel, chief executive of Gas Safe Register, said:

“Barbecuing is one of our nation’s favourite pastimes but it can also be dangerous and cause CO poisoning if not done correctly. It’s important that lit barbecues are never brought into an enclosed space and that people are aware of CO poisoning symptoms, which include breathlessness, headaches, nausea, dizziness, collapse and the loss of consciousness. By knowing these symptoms, people may be able to act quickly and reduce the severity of CO poisoning.”

Keep safe, campers!