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British Gas fined after pensioner fall

British Gas Services must pay out £4,700 in fines and compensation after an 81-year-old woman fell through an open hatch left unguarded by a central heating contractor.

Both British Gas Services and contractor Adrian Newth – trading as Perthshire Oil Heating – pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act.

Mr Newth was not fined, but must pay £300 in compensation to the victim while British Gas will pay a £2,000 fine and compensation totalling £2,700.

The incident happened while Mr Newth was installing an oil fired central heating system into the Stanley property as part of the Scottish Government’s Central Heating Programme which British
Gas Services was contracted to manage.

The Health and Safety Executive said Mr Newth opened a hatch in the floor of the hallway during discussion about the installation with two electricians.

The hatch was left open, unguarded and unprotected except for the closed living room door while Mr Newth and the electricians proceeded to carry out work in other areas of the property. 

The woman walked into the hallway and fell into the open hatch sustaining major injuries to her right upper arm and severe bruising to her back and legs.

The HSE has warned companies undertaking central heating installations and those responsible for managing installation contracts of the serious consequences when safe systems of work are not adopted.

HSE principal inspector Jim Skilling said: “This is one of four very serious incidents that my Inspectors have investigated in a 12-month period in the east of Scotland.

“All involved elderly women falling down hatches or holes left exposed and unprotected where a contractor carried out plumbing, heating or gas replacement work in their properties. It is not sensible or acceptable for contractors to assume that simply telling the occupant to remain in one room is sufficient.

“Contractors must take positive steps to prevent any incident by implementing  a safe system of work approach where all holes are covered or have barriers to ensure the safety of all persons whether occupants or visitors.

“This was a wholly preventable incident, which has greatly affected the householder, and it could very well have proved fatal.”