Monday 26th September 2016, Winter Hall, Royal College of Physicians Ireland, Kildare Street, Dublin 2
Thank you Ann (McGarry) for inviting me here today to launch what is a vitally important awareness initiative - Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week 2016.
There are people in this room who sadly know only too well the heartbreak that carbon monoxide poisoning can cause. I want to pay tribute to you for being here today and for sharing your story and for making it real for the rest of us.
As you know this is the fifth Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week. It is a public safety initiative, championed, organised and supported by many of you here today. This Campaign is vital to inform and educate all of us so we can make changes in our everyday lives and minimise risk before it's too late. The impact and effect of Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week in previous years has shown that people take more notice when there is a sustained, broad scope campaign, such as this one planned for this week.
What Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week shows us is that notwithstanding previous safety awareness campaigns, we continue to see terrible tragedies as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning.
I am currently developing plans that will put Ireland's current Energy policy into effect however the main difference from previous energy policies is that I intend to put people at the heart of this policy - to give people more control over how they use energy. Implicit in this is that people should be safe when using energy in their homes and elsewhere so information and knowledge is key. We have to have a cautious respect for fossil fuels wherever we use them - in our homes, workplaces, schools, hotels.
It is officially autumn now, and people will be switching on boilers that haven't operated for six months, lighting fires and closing windows – all things which potentially increase risk.
On average, six people die in Ireland every year because carbon monoxide - something they cannot see, smell or taste - has poisoned them.
Ann will talk later about how to recognise the danger and what can be done to avoid tragedy. She will reiterate that burning all fossil fuels, not just gas, poses the risk of generating carbon monoxide gas. Gas, coal, oil, peat and wood – all these fuels produce carbon monoxide as a by-product of incomplete combustion.
I want to take this opportunity to applaud the excellent work done by the energy industry generally to get safety information out to their customers. I must give special mention to the team at Gas Networks Ireland, led by Owen Wilson, for all the work they do during the year and in particular in the run-up to Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week, and also to Tom Meehan of EI Electronics for the invaluable support that his company has given to this campaign.
I also want to commend the work of registered gas installers and oil technicians, and their representative bodies, in helping to raise the standard of appliance installation and maintenance. I'm pleased that appliance manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers are becoming more involved in spreading the word.
The National Standards Authority of Ireland, continues, through the Gas Technical Standards Committee, to ensure that there are proper standards in place, including those relating to carbon monoxide alarms, and the NSAI has been quick to highlight any alarms which do not meet those standards. This is important work that will save lives.
Last year saw some significant changes to some of the publicity materials and channels used for this public safety campaign. As Minister for Communications, I applaud the efforts being made to connect with those people who were not reached by previous campaigns.
I am hereby pleased to launch Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week 2016.