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Shoddy gas work put lives at risk at Newton Abbot home

Date:
18 September 2013

Three gas engineers failed to spot and rectify serious gas safety failings at a rented Devon home – putting a family at risk of death, injury or ill health from carbon monoxide poisoning, a court has heard.

In a prosecution brought today (18 September) by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Newton Abbot Magistrates’ Court was told that all three men separately completed annual gas safety checks at the Newton Abbot property on behalf of a landlord, but overlooked obvious concerns.

This was despite them being legally authorised and seemingly competent to undertake gas work.

Magistrates heard that a tenant at the house on Fairfield Terrace, which she shared with her daughter and son, complained of feeling ill as a result of inhaling fumes from a gas fire. Subsequent checks by gas safety experts revealed failings that should have been picked up by the respective engineers.

The matter was passed to HSE, who established that Stephen Carter, of Barton Drive, Newton Abbot, was asked to carry out safety checks in December 2010. He issued a gas safety certificate, even though a fire and back boiler were inadequately ventilated and sealed, and failed to check the supply of combustion air.

His son Matthew Carter, of the same address, was then asked by the landlord to carry out the next annual safety check in November 2011. He too issued a certificate without identifying the same problems.

Then in September 2012, Brian McManus, of Shirwell Rise South, Queensway, Torquay, was contacted by the landlord to carry out the safety check. Although he identified problems with ventilation, he did not isolate the gas fire and proceeded to carry out unsatisfactory repairs.

Thorough checks when the tenant reported feeling unwell highlighted inadequate ventilation for the fire and back boiler in the lounge, and also that the fire surround was not properly sealed. This meant the products of combustion, including poisonous carbon monoxide gas, could escape into the room.

Stephen Carter pleaded guilty to a single breach of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and two breaches of the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998. He was fined a total of £750 and ordered to pay costs of £734.

Matthew Carter pleaded guilty to the same breaches and was also fined £750 with costs of £734.

Brian McManus pleaded guilty to a separate single breach of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the same two Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 failings. He was fined a total of £750 and ordered to pay costs of £375.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Simon Jones said:

"The three engineers failed in their duty to identify and repair the serious safety issues, and fell well short of the standards you expect from seemingly competent registered professionals.

"The issues relating to ventilation and sealing should have been identified and dealt with. Instead the landlord’s tenants were put at unnecessary risk and were misled into believing the gas appliances were safe to use.

"Gas engineers must do a thorough and competent job every time because if they don’t the consequences can be devastating."

Further information about gas safety can be found on the HSE website at http://www.hse.gov.uk/gas/

Notes to editors

  1. The Health and Safety Executive is Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety. It aims to reduce work-related death, injury and ill health. It does so through research, information and advice; promoting training; new or revised regulations and codes of practice; and working with local authority partners by inspection, investigation and enforcement. www.hse.gov.uk
  2. Section 3(2) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 states: It shall be the duty of every self employed person to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure so far as is reasonably practicable that he and others persons not being his employees who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health and safety
  3. Section 7 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 states: it shall be the duty of every employee while at work to take reasonable care for the health and safety of himself and of other persons who may be affected by his acts or omissions at work
  4. Regulation 26(9)(b) of the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 states: where a person performs work on a gas appliance he shall immediately therefore examine the supply of combustion air
  5. Regulation 26(9)(d) of the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 states: where a person performs work on a gas appliance he shall immediately therefore examine its operation so as to ensure its safe functioning

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