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Prison for gas fitter after work put family in danger

Date:
26 March 2014

A Derbyshire plumber has been sent to prison after putting his customers’ lives at risk.

Steven Colson, previously known as Steven Barkway and trading as SBC Bathrooms, was employed by Neil and Nazia Tingay to refurbish the bathroom at their home in Ashover, Chesterfield, in July 2010.

Part of the work involved decommissioning, moving and recommissioning the boiler but although Mr Colson told the couple he could do the job he was not qualified to do so and was not registered with Gas Safe.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which brought today’s prosecution, told Derby Crown Court that he initially moved the boiler to the wrong place so had to move it for a second time.

Mr and Mrs Tingay became suspicious of Mr Colson’s work and asked British Gas to give the boiler its annual service. The engineer found six defects – three of which were classed as immediately dangerous and three of which were classed as at risk or not to current standards. Mr Colson then admitted he was not qualified to carry out the work.

The court heard that Mr Colson had connected the boiler to the wrong type of flue and had failed to fit an inner flue, which is needed to disperse fumes. He had also terminated the flue at a louvered self-closing vent extractor, making it impossible for flue products to exit and combustion air to enter simultaneously, which could have led to a build-up of potentially lethal carbon monoxide fumes.

British Gas condemned the boiler immediately and notified HSE, which issued a Prohibition Notice preventing Mr Colson from carrying out any more gas fitting work until he was qualified to do so.

Steven Colson, 46, of New Street, Bolsover, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulations 3(1), 3(3), 26(1), 27(1) of the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998. He was sentenced to two months in prison and ordered to pay costs of £1,000.

After the hearing HSE inspector Edward Walker said:

“Mr Colson put his customers’ lives at risk. If it wasn’t for the fact their boiler was due to be serviced, these life-threatening errors may not have been detected until it was too late.

“These defects demonstrated a complete lack of knowledge of gas safety. Working with gas appliances is difficult, specialised and potentially very dangerous. Only qualified and registered engineers should attempt it. HSE will not hesitate to prosecute those who break the law in this way.”

Also speaking after the hearing, Neil Tingay said:

“We had a very lucky escape in terms of our health but not so lucky in terms of our finances as the work cost us more than £10,000 to put right. My advice to anyone employing someone to do work involving gas is to check they are qualified to do the work and that they know what they are doing.

“Get their Gas Safe registration number and then look them up on the Gas Safe Register website. We didn’t do that and it cost us a lot of money. It could even have cost us our lives.”

Notes to editors

1. Regulation 3(1) of the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 state: “No person shall carry out any work in relation to a gas fitting or gas storage vessel unless he is competent to do so.”
2. Regulation 3(3) of the same regulations states: “No employer shall allow any of his employees to carry out any work in relation to a gas fitting or service pipework 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.”
3. Regulation 26(1) of the same regulations states: “No person shall install a gas appliance unless it can be used without constituting a danger to any person.”
4. Regulation 27(1) of the same regulations states: “No person shall install a gas appliance to any flue unless the flue is suitable and in a proper condition for the safe operation of the appliance.”

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