The call was made by Stephanie Trotter OBE, president and director of the CO-Gas Safety Society, after director of Amadeus Investments Hussein Jajbhay was fined £20,000 and ordered to pay £35,000 in costs at Blackfriars Crown Court for “failure of maintenance and failure to maintain a gas fitting in a safe condition”.
In February 2005, six-year-old Elisabeth Giauque died after inhaling carbon monoxide fumes from a faulty boiler. At the time she, her parents and two younger brothers were living in a house owned by Mr Jajbhay, the landlord.
Health and Safety Executive (HSE) records reveal that the last service and maintenance of the boiler was carried out in January 2002. The latest landlord’s gas safety certificate (GSC) was issued in January 2003. However, Judge Aidan Marron QC said the boiler had been in a dangerous state for some time prior to the missed inspections, and previous GSCs failed to note that the unit was unsafe.
“It is a truly lamentable situation that so many inspections by authorised personnel failed to reveal the deficiencies in the system,” Judge Marron added.
Mrs Trotter said this case, like others, demonstrated the need for reform. “GSCs should be amended to include a full service and extended to all households and combustible fuels,” she said.
“Most people don’t realise how cursory the GSC can be. Regulation 36 of the Gas Safety (Installations and Use) Regulations 1998 state that landlords have a duty to ensure that the gas fitting and flues are maintained in a safe condition, to prevent the risk of injury. Without prejudice to this, there is a further duty to ensure that there is a safety check undertaken by a registered CORGI installer every 12 months.
“However, there is no requirement that each and every appliance have its flue gases sampled with a printed copy of the signed and dated recordings being attached to the GSC. Many landlords put pressure on CORGI installers to undertake cheap, cursory inspections and pay them accordingly.”
Mrs Trotter said the compulsory servicing of all gas appliances could be enforced by placing a further duty on the energy suppliers, making it illegal for them to supply gas to households without proof of a service. “This might seem like taking a hammer to crack a nut, but when you examine the facts surrounding as many unnecessary deaths as I have, nearly all were caused by the lack of a decent service.”
Tony Brunton, chair of the Association for Registered Gas Installers, said a valve should be “designed to ensure that if a gas appliance is not serviced, then the user is deprived of the benefits of having it”.
Responding to the call, an HSE spokesperson said: “The review of the Landlords Annual Safety Check Requirement of the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 is still ongoing. We will be seeking stakeholder views on ideas this autumn. This will not be a full consultation paper but a discussion document. After that we will take these ideas forward when we have a strong evidence base.”