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Moonlighting gas engineer sentenced after illegal work at take-aways

Date:
18 June 2014

A domestic gas engineer has been sentenced to 90 hours community payback after carrying out work on commercial catering premises that he was not competent to do.

James Richard Harvey Skinner, 43, from Portlethen, Aberdeenshire, was employed by a gas company but, unknown to them, he did private gas fitting work in commercial take-aways and restaurants as an unregistered gas engineer. He undertook gas safety inspection and installation work at Indian takeaways in Stonehaven and Portlethen in 2010.

Aberdeen Sheriff Court heard today (18 June) that Mr Skinner issued Gas Safety records on the wrong forms using a Gas Safe registration number that he fraudulently claimed was his own, which turned out to belong to a former employer.

Mr Skinner’s activities were investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after complaints from Gas Safe Register and Aberdeenshire Council.

A Gas Safe engineer visited two take-aways and found a number of safety issues that a gas engineer with catering competence should have identified including an open-ended gas pipe that was left uncapped.

HSE said this could have caused a significant build-up of gas and a subsequent explosion had the isolation valve been turned by mistake and the gas ignited. An immediate Prohibition Notice was issued halting use of the relevant gas appliances until they were made safe.

The court heard that although Mr Skinner did not necessarily create the risks in the premises, he failed to ensure that they were identified and remedied.

A similar investigation at another take-away found incorrect fitting of a tandoori oven and no ‘interlocking’ of the extraction system, meaning gas could have been turned on without the extractor operating, which could have led to a build-up of Carbon Monoxide and Carbon Dioxide levels, putting workers at risk of poisoning.  Once again an immediate Prohibition Notice was served on the premises.

The court was told that when Mr Skinner was interviewed, he initially suggested that he had been impersonated, though he later accepted he had undertaken work at the premises.

James Richard Harvey Skinner, 43, of Cairngrassie Circle, Portlethen, Aberdeenshire, was sentenced to a 90 hour community payback order, a direct alternative to a custodial sentence, after pleading guilty to four breaches of the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 and also to a breach of Section 3(2) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

After sentencing, HSE Inspector John Radcliffe said:

“In carrying out this commercial work while not registered and competent to do so, Mr Skinner put those working in these premises, those living and working nearby and customers visiting them at risk.

“Any business or sole trader who carries out work on any commercial gas appliances without being on the Gas Safe Register is breaking the law and potentially putting lives in danger.

“Despite Mr Skinner being a competent domestic gas engineer, who at the time was employed by a well known company, he did not have current commercial catering qualification/competencies and as a result was operating illegally.

“By knowingly using the registration number of another business, Mr Skinner compounded the severity of his actions by giving his clients a sense of security and safety that was entirely false.”

Russell Kramer, Chief Executive of Gas Safe Register, said:

“In the right hands gas is safe but gas work should only ever be undertaken by a suitably qualified and competent Gas Safe registered engineer.

“In order to become Gas Safe registered you have to demonstrate competence to recognised training and accreditation bodies. The public should always ensure that whoever is carrying out gas work can prove they are registered. Every registered engineer has an ID card which can be used to check they are who they say they are, and shows the types of gas work they are qualified to carry out. You can check the details by calling 0800 408 5500 or visiting www.gassaferegister.co.uk

More information about gas safety can be found on HSE’s 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. In Scotland the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service has sole responsibility for the raising of criminal proceedings for breaches of health and safety legislation.

3. Regulation 3(1) of the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 states: “No person shall carry out any work in relation to a gas fitting or gas storage vessel unless he is competent to do so.

4. Regulation 3(3) of the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 states: “No employer shall allow any of his employees to carry out any work in relation to a gas fitting or service pipe work and no self-employed person shall carry out any such work, unless the employer or self-employed person, as the case may be, is a member of a class of persons approved for the time being by the Health and Safety Executive for the purposes of this paragraph”

5. Regulation 3(7) of the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 states: “No person shall falsely claim to be a member of a class of person competent to carry out any work in relation to a gas fitting or gas storage vessel.”

6. Regulation 6(2) of the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 states: “No person carrying out work in relation to a gas fitting shall leave the fitting unattended unless every incomplete gasway has been sealed with the appropriate fitting or the gas fitting is otherwise safe.”

7. 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 other persons (not being his employees) who may be affected thereby are not exposed to risks to their health or safety.”

8. HSE news releases are available at press.hse.gov.uk

9. Gas engineers undertaking gas installation and maintenance work must be registered with a body approved by the HSE. The approved body is Gas Safe Register. More information and a full list of registered engineers can be found on www.gassaferegister.co.uk

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