Failure to check work exposed householder to deadly fume

A roofing contractor has been given a prison sentence after an elderly couple was exposed to “deadly fumes” when work on a chimney stack caused a blockage above a gas fire.

John Stanley had been hired to repair a water leak between a double chimney stack and roof tiles at a Luton property in August 2011. In doing so a gas fire chimney was blocked leading to combustion fumes entering the property loft space.

Magistrates heard that employees of Mr Stanley, 47 dismantled the old double chimney to just below roof tile level and carried out repairs to roof timbers and felt. A single chimney stack was then built.

However, there was a failure to check the flue for the gas fire in rear living room was still in full working order. It emerged that this chimney as blocked when the stack was rebuilt instead of the chimney of the disused and boarded-up fireplace in the property’s front living room.

The householders discovered the fault in November 2012 when they called a Gas Safe registered engineer to examine the gas fire which they were having trouble lighting.

HSE investigators found that the gas fire had been used for over a year with the fumes entering the loft over a bedroom putting the residents at serious risk over an extended period of time. A very simple smoke test would have highlighted the issue after completion of the work.

Gas Safe engineers required for the work

John Stanley, of Hitchin Road, Luton, trading as King Roofing and Durable Plastics, pleaded guilty to a breach of Section 3(2) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. He was given a four-month prison sentence suspended for two years, and ordered to pay £500 compensation to the couple he put at risk.

Smoke percolating through roof tiles from gas fire

Speaking after the hearing, investigating HSE Inspector Robert Meardon said:

“John Stanley’s sub-standard work created an ongoing breach and a prolonged risk to the safety of a vulnerable and elderly couple. It cost them a huge amount of unnecessary anxiety and a considerable amount of money to rectify – on top of their savings they had used to pay Mr Stanley for the work.

When a chimney is the flue for a gas fire, it is a vital part of the gas installation and should only be done by a competent gas engineer on the Gas Safe Register.

Mr Stanley advertised himself as a specialist roofing contractor, but he was never on the Gas Safe Register and not qualified to carry out gas work. He should have never undertaken this job knowing that a gas fire was linked to the chimney.

This incident could have resulted in fatalities as gas fire fumes can contain poisonous carbon monoxide, which can kill. It is vital that building contractors are aware of the risks they create and comply with the laws in place to control the risks.”

Russell Kramer, chief executive of Gas Safe Register, added:

“Every Gas Safe registered engineer carries a Gas Safe ID card, which shows who they are and the type of gas appliances they are qualified to work on.

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