Editorial: Sensors a no-brainer

Last updated 05:00 27/10/2012
carbon monoxide sensor
MYTCHALL BRANSGROVE/ Fairfax NZ
SAFETY DEVICE: A carbon monoxide sensor.

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Sensors could save lives Better ventilation 'may have prevented death' Cost seen as deterrent for caravanners Trio survived gas poisoning

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It seems a no-brainer really.

Carbon monoxide sensors should be compulsory in all caravans and campervans.

And just as regular electrical and road worthiness tests are required on caravans now, so there should be a regular gas warrant. Say, every five years.

Why?

Because New Zealand's caravan fleet is generally old. Because caravans get shaken around every time they are moved. Because the Kiwi DIY attitude cuts safety corners. And because people die when gas systems don't work properly.

From inhalation of a substance you can't see or smell, and which can occur at any time.

A Timaru family has had the heartbreak of experiencing this first hand, with their father Ian Joyce dying of CO poisoning in his caravan almost two years ago. His wife was lucky to survive. The Coroner's Court heard on Thursday that ventilation was an issue in the caravan, and while the LPG fridge produced high levels of carbon monoxide it was not faulty.

So, despite using the caravan many times safely, in December 2010 it became a death trap. With no warning.

Similarly the close call relayed in our story today shows that a caravan with no previous known problems could suddenly have claimed three lives.

Which would have been added to the 26 such deaths recorded since 1973.

Sure, that's a long timeframe, but the number of deaths would surprise most people.

Which makes you wonder why there hasn't been a greater push to pass some law before now.

Even if it might be seen as unpopular, which it would, because it involves more regulation and cost.

But an issue here is ignorance of the danger. And while the Joyce family and the Woods have relayed their warnings now, over time the message diminishes. Until there is another death.

Regulation is a longer-term fix. Adequate ventilation is a one-off cost, and a gas warrant of fitness every five years a minimal imposition surely.

Especially when the ultimate cost is a life.

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- The Timaru Herald

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