A carbon monoxide alarm in a cupboard in a horsebox probably saved two lives in January. SEIB consider ways you can keep your horsebox protected with 6 simple steps.

In January, Horse & Hound reported how a mother and daughter, asleep in their horsebox, were woken by a carbon monoxide alarm tucked away haphazardly in a cupboard, probably saving their lives. The alarm was triggered when the horsebox’s heating system—despite annual services—released carbon monoxide levels well above HSE safety limits.

The incident jolted the mother and daughter duo who now travel with carbon monoxide alarms permanently fitted into their horsebox. Yet the near-miss raised questions over carbon monoxide poisoning in horseboxes generally, with many of us seldom considering the risks it presents. Alarms are a mere £20, a small price to pay for something that might save a life.

As horsebox insurance specialists, SEIB look at the stats, warning signs and ways to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning in your horsebox.

The stats

Colourless, odourless and tasteless, carbon monoxide poisoning accounts for 50 recorded deaths per year and 4,000 medical visits. Nest suggests around 250,000 homes are exposed to high carbon monoxide levels each year.

It is measured by parts per million, or ppm. As much as 150ppm in sustained doses could be fatal, whilst as little as 70ppm—less than the incident in January—could see you feeling as though you’re coming down with flu.

A carbon monoxide alarm is deemed as a life-saving tool, yet 27 million people in the UK don’t have one in their home.

The risks for horseboxes

Like caravans and motorhomes, horseboxes provide a mobile home away from home, but it doesn’t mean the risks of carbon monoxide poisoning should be dismissed. When you’re out in your lorry for days or weeks on end, caution and vigilance should remain on your mind.

Many horseboxes are fitted with boilers, gas fires, water heaters, cookers and central heating systems. These appliances pose the greatest threat of carbon monoxide leakages. You may rely on portable devices while you’re away, and these also pose a very real risk of leakages.

Causes and symptoms

Any prolonged exposure to carbon monoxide can have serious, life-changing effects. Around 15% of people who have severe carbon monoxide poisoning develop long-term complications.

Exposure to low amounts can result in flu-like symptoms, headaches, nausea and dizziness. Other effects include breathlessness, chest pains, seizures and even loss of consciousness. In severe cases, memory and the ability to concentrate can be affected. People may lose their vision or hearing, suffer heart disease, or even a fatality. Carbon monoxide poisoning also affects unborn babies.

Reducing carbon monoxide risks in your horsebox

Of course, fitting your horsebox with an alarm will serve its purpose and can notify you of high levels of the pollutant, but reducing the risks in the first instance is the best way to avoid an incident.

  • Incorrect installation: Unless qualified, do not attempt to fit or install appliances such as boilers, cookers or heating systems in your horsebox yourself. Find a trusted, registered engineer to do this.
  • Poor maintenance: Equally as important as the installation, the proper maintenance schedule on each individual appliance needs to be observed by a qualified expert. Do not attempt to carry out the maintenance yourself as it could also damage the appliance’s working order, or your warranty.
  • Poor ventilation: Your horsebox is an enclosed space. With the engine running, the cooker going and/or the heating on, the appliances emit pollutants which need to be aired properly. Opening windows and doors and maintaining any fan ventilation systems can go a long way to prevent any gradual build up of carbon monoxide.
  • Fumes from the engine exhaust: Since you may take your horsebox to muddy areas, it’s important you check for exhaust blockages before you turn on the engine. Ensure your horsebox is thoroughly serviced by a reputable company.
  • Common sense: Don’t use petrol or diesel generators in your horsebox. Don’t use your oven or cooker to heat the horsebox, don’t use an indoor barbecue inside, and don’t block any air vents.
  • Alarm: Sometimes, leakages happen out of your control. Fitting an alarm is your security policy. Make sure your alarm is approved by the latest British regulation Standard (BS Kitemark or EN50291).

Will my insurance cover a carbon monoxide leak in my horsebox?

If the worst happens, and you believe that someone else was responsible for maintaining appliances which may have caused carbon monoxide poisoning – who they are will depend on the specific circumstances and could involve the seller of the horsebox, or the manufacturer, installer or service engineers for the appliances – then you should seek legal advice. If a compensation claim progresses and a third party is found to have been negligent, then providing that they have adequate business liability insurance in place, their policy cover will often be the source of any successful compensation award.

About Us

SEIB are specialist insurance brokers based in Essex. Our clients enjoy comprehensive peace of mind with our trusted policies covering horse insurance, insurance for horseboxes and much more. Our horsebox insurance covers vehicles from 3.5 tonnes to HGVs and can include horsebox breakdown, European cover, cover for personal effects and more.

Find out more about our horsebox insurance or call us on 01708 850 000.