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Gas fitter sentenced after exposing family to carbon monoxide

Date:
12 November 2015

A gas fitter has been sentenced to community payback after his incompetent installation of a new boiler system at a cottage near Montrose put the tenant’s lives in danger. 

David Stott’s substandard work on the boiler in the rented cottage exposed a visiting family and the tenant’s family to potentially lethal carbon monoxide. 

Forfar Sheriff Court heard as a result of the accused’s failings, the tenant was poisoned by carbon monoxide, endangering his life and leaving him with long term sleeping problems. 

David Stott from Montrose went to Leys of Dun Cottage, a stone built farm cottage, situated between Brechin and Montrose, on 28 October 2013 to install a new boiler which was already at the property. It was decided the new boiler would be situated in the kitchen, where a previous boiler had once been located, with a flue exit for a boiler chimney to pass through. 

When the work was finished, Stott provided paperwork and a demonstration of how the boiler worked to the owner of the cottage and the wife of the tenant, who had lived there for eight years previous. 

The following week, the tenant was waking up with a severe headache and at one point collapsed when going to the toilet during the night. His wife also suffered headaches, dizziness, nausea and regular vomiting. Their pregnant daughter and her 20 month old son attended the property during that week, had also felt unwell. 

On the evening of 1 November, the tenant was shaking and was unable to walk or stand by himself, which he believed to be related to painkillers for a work accident he had suffered.

However, on Tuesday 5 November after returning home the tenant’s wife found the couple’s two dogs had vomited in the house, with one lying on the floor, apparently fitting and unable to stand. The tenant was found unresponsive in his bed, foaming at the mouth, with his eyes rolling in his head and his arms contorted. 

The tenant’s wide mentioned the boiler to the attending ambulance crew and when they reached hospital his blood was tested for carbon monoxide. His carbon monoxide level was found to be 33.6 percent. Ordinarily, this would be expected to be zero. Anything over 15 percent is considered serious poisoning.

A gas engineer who came out to look at the boiler noted the flue chimney had been four inches out of line with the boiler outlet and reported the matter to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

The subsequent investigation showed various failings including the new boiler not been installed correctly in terms of the positioning, the connection of the flue chimney, and the necessary adjustments to take account of an LPG source at the cottage. 

The way the boiler was fitted provided insufficient space to secure the flue chimney to the top of the boiler, causing excessively high levels of carbon monoxide to be emitted into the kitchen area and the void where it could escape into other parts of the cottage. 

The court heard the tenants have since moved from the cottage into a flat due to psychological and sleeping problems. One of the couple’s dogs had to be put to sleep after the exposure. 

HSE inspector Niall Miller said after the hearing: “The extent of Stott’s failure was significant. 

“The levels of carbon monoxide were far in excess of permissible levels, and given the total failure to connect the flue chimney, this was able to escape into the property. 

“The male tenant in this property could easily have died and other people in the cottage were exposed over a number of days, including a pregnant woman and 20 month old baby.” 

David Stott of Waterside Road, Montrose pleaded guilty to breaching Sections 3(2) and 33(1)(a) to the Health and Safety at Work Etc Act 1974 and was sentenced to 200 hours community payback to be completed within one year.

Notes to Editors

  1. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) 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. 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. More about the legislation referred to in this case can be found at: legislation.gov.uk/  
  4. HSE news releases are available at http://press.hse.gov.uk

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