Fire Safety on Boats

Boat fires have killed 30 boaters in the last 20 years. A fire on board, most of the time, can be preventable. Proper maintenance, regular inspections, and adherence to safety protocols significantly reduce the risk of fire. Ensuring electrical systems are up to date, monitoring fuel systems for leaks, and having fire extinguishers readily accessible can mitigate potential hazards. By prioritising prevention and encouraging awareness, we can work towards eliminating fires and preserving lives on the water.

Carbon Monoxide on Boats

Many people are unaware of the effects, symptoms and dangers of carbon monoxide (CO). Known as The Silent Killer, it is a colourless, odourless, tasteless gas which is highly toxic to humans and animals. The only way to detect CO is with an audible carbon monoxide alarm.

CO is generated by the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels. Most commonly associated with appliances such as; boilers, heaters, hobs and generators. Even routine activities like cooking or keeping warm can potentially lead to a build up of this deadly gas. It is important to ensure that all appliances are properly maintained and regularly serviced to minimise the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Recognising the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning is also vital for staying safe on board. Symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, nausea, weakness and confusion may indicate exposure to elevated levels of carbon monoxide. It’s essential for boat owners and passengers to be aware of these signs and to take immediate action.

Fire Extinguishers for Boat Safety

There are different fire risks on boats so it is essential that you have the correct extinguishers to deal with the different types of fire that may occur. Regular maintenance of all your electrical appliances and engine are important to help prevent potential fire hazards.

Powder fire extinguishers are suitable for an outdoor fire on a boat, such as an engine fire. Engine fires on boats can involve a variety of fuel sources, including gasoline, diesel, oil, making powder extinguishers suitable as they can extinguish a wide range of fire types. However, they are not recommended for indoor use due to reduced visibility. The water mist fire extinguishers would be ideal for an indoor boat fire. Water mist extinguishers are versatile; suitable for use on Class A and B fires as well as fires involving electrical equipment. They leave no residue and are environmentally friendly.

Smoke Alarms for Boat Safety

Smoke alarms detect smoke and sound an alarm to alert people on board of a fire. In a marine environment where fires can spread rapidly and evacuation options may be limited, early detection is critical. Boat owners should ensure that smoke alarms are installed in key areas to make sure a boat fire can be detected as soon as possible. Key areas include sleeping quarters, engine compartments, and galley areas where fire hazards are most prevalent.

Maintenance and testing of smoke alarms is important to ensure proper functionality to get alerted in the event of a fire. It’s recommended to test your alarms monthly, and to clean your alarms regularly as a build-up of dust can impact their performance.

When selecting smoke alarms for your boat, make sure to choose models specifically designed for boats. These are designed to withstand the unique challenges posed by constant exposure to moisture, saltwater, and vibration. It’s also wise to consider the size and layout of your vessel and determine the appropriate number and placement.

House, caravan, campervan and boat travel icons on carbon monoxide alarms
To determine whether your alarms are suitable for travel, look out for the following symbols and certification to (BS) EN 50291-2

Smoke Alarms for Boats

UltraFire ULLS10 –
FireAngel 6620 –

What are COSHH regulations?

COSHH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health) regulations were put in place to protect workers from poor health in the workplace. Many materials and substances used in the workplace can be harmful to human health and therefore it is important to limit the exposure. COSHH regulations require employers to identify harmful substances in the workplace and put measures in place to protect employees.

What are COSHH hazardous substances?

COSHH covers the different forms of hazardous substances; liquids, dusts, gases, vapours, mists and fumes. COSHH substances can cause problems to human health causing issues such as such as skin damage, asthma, lung damage, cancer and more. Effects such as stinging or dizziness when exposed to COSHH substances can be immediate. However, some can take years to develop like lung disease.

In the workplace you can often be exposed to different forms of hazardous substances without even knowing. Here’s a few to look out for:

Liquids – Found in cleaning products, fuels, pesticides, processed chemicals, liquified gases

Dusts – Found in wood, concrete, bricks, glass, grains, flour

Gases – Make sure you know what gases you’re dealing with before using them. There are a wide range of gases that are harmful in different ways

Vapours – Solvent vapours released from adhesives, glues, paints, inks

Mists – Released from sprays, jets, hand dispensers

Fumes – Created from heating a solid, e.g created when welding. Strong and strict control measures around the extraction of the potentially harmful fumes

What are the COSHH hazard classes?

COSHH symbols are used to identify the COSHH hazard classes. COSHH symbols relate to specific types of harm that can occur from harmful materials or substances, and there are 9 official COSHH symbols in total; corrosive, harmful, explosive, flammable, irritant, oxidising, toxic, health hazard and environmental hazard. Most products have COSHH symbols on their packaging to inform users if the material or substance is harmful. Here are the symbols:

COSHH regulations
COSHH Symbols

What is a COSHH regulations assessment?

It’s the employer’s responsibility to perform a COSHH Assessment to understand the level of risk that exists within the workplace. The COSHH Assessment includes a review of hazardous properties, looking at how they are used and identifying any control measures needed to prevent harm to health. It’s the employers responsibility to ensure COSHH regulations and prevention processes are being followed.

Assess the risks

Think about how workers might be exposed, who might be exposed, how to control the risks, who needs to carry out the action and when the action is needed.

Control the risks

Eliminate unnecessary substances or replace substances where a safer alternative is available and consider whether a process can be changed to so it results in less exposure. If a substance is not directly replaceable, adequate control measures must be put in place to reduce exposure.

Training and educating staff about any risks to health from hazardous substances is critical. Hanging a COSHH poster in the workplace to show a clear list of hazard symbols for staff to familiarise themselves with is a good way to raise awareness.

As the employer, it is your responsibility to ensure that workers understand the policies around COSHH regulations and what it means for them. This may include which hazards are present, necessary training and how the risks are being controlled.

COSHH Regulations Poster

The Importance of Indoor Air Quality

The average person lives for 79 years and spends 70 of those years indoors – it’s no secret that people are spending more time than ever indoors with the technology we have at our disposal today. Therefore, it is more important than ever to have good indoor air quality in your home and workplace. Poor air quality has been linked to increased risk of heart disease and strokes as well as lung diseases such as COPD and cancer.

Improve indoor air quality in your home

How air quality is measured

The Air Quality Index (AQI) is a system that is used for reporting daily air quality. In the UK, it is measured on a scale from 1 to 10 and informs the public whether the air quality in their area is good, moderate, unhealthy, very unhealthy or hazardous. The AQI number is calculated based on the levels of 5 common air pollutants: ozone, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide.

air quality index

Indoor air quality can be measured using an indoor air quality monitor. These monitors detect the quantity of CO2 in the air, allowing you to keep track of CO2 emissions in your home. This informs you when CO2 levels get too high which would indicate you to take appropriate measures to reduce air pollution indoors.

Sources of indoor air pollution

Indoor air pollution can come from a variety of sources including from materials used in the initial construction of the building and chemicals in paint and carpets. Other actions contributing to poor air quality could include cooking, cleaning, wood stove burning, candle burning, using personal care products, moisture, keeping house plants that give off volatile chemicals, and more.

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a highly poisonous gas that is produced when appliances such as boilers cookers, heaters, gas fires and solid fuel burners are faulty, have been incorrectly fitted, or not regularly serviced. Even a low level of carbon monoxide in your home could cause severe health problems. A CO detector is the only way to detect carbon monoxide as it is a tasteless, colourless and odorless gas. CO alarms can either be wall mounted or used as a portable device. Specific models are also tested for use when travelling and in caravans, tents or boats. A digital carbon monoxide detector will display the level of carbon monoxide in the air. Some indoor air quality monitors also monitor the presence of carbon monoxide.

There is also growing evidence that dampness and mould contribute to indoor air pollution. It has been suggested that dust mites and fungi, which favour damp environments, produce several allergens as well as toxins and irritants. This can have serious effects on respiratory health. Dampness is also an indicator of poor ventilation which may result in increased levels of a wide range of potentially harmful indoor pollutants. Today’s houses are more air tight, which is more energy efficient. But, this impacts air flow and it’s important to be mindful of the need for ventilation.

Symptoms of bad air quality

Air pollution can shorten lives and damage the quality of life for many people. You may be in a polluted environment if you experience the following symptoms: headaches, eye / nose / throat / skin irritation, watery eyes, sinus congestion, coughing, sneezing, chest pain, inflammation of airways. If you are experiencing symptoms of bad air quality, it is important to identify and remove sources of pollution.

Woman blowing her nose
Poor indoor air quality can cause nose irritation

How to prevent air pollution

There are several steps you can take to start increasing indoor air quality in your home.  You must also limit your exposure to air pollution. Here is a list of things to consider when improving air quality:

  • Increase ventilation
  • Always use an extractor fan and open windows while cooking
  • Remove pollutant sources in your home
  • Use liquid cleaners (not sprays)
  • Never mix cleaning products
  • Switch to electric / induction hob if possible
  • Limit frying oil
  • Always have gas appliances serviced each year by a gas safe engineer
  • Have any chimneys swept at least once a year

Ella’s Law

Ella Roberta Adoo Kissi Debrah died at only 9 years old due to exposure of excessive air pollution in London. Since then, Ella’s law, also known as the Clean Air (Human Rights) Bill, was introduced to parliament in 2022 to urge the government to take action and bring air quality up to minimum World Health Organisation (WHO) standards.

Ella’s law would establish the right to breathe clean air as a basic human right in an attempt to stop symptoms and death from poor air quality. This would mean that public authorities must consider clean air in the way they make decisions. If you would like to see Ella’s law made official, you can get involved and sign the petition.

Air quality guidelines

For a more detailed guide to indoor air quality regulations, visit the government website.