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Gas engineer fined £5k for CO breach

A gas engineer from Southampton has been found guilty of breaching health and safety regulations after endangering the lives of a mother and her six-year-old daughter.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) brought the prosecution at Southampton Magistrates Court on 24 March after Motoko Riley and her six-year-old daughter were severely affected by carbon monoxide.

On 2 December 2007, Mrs Riley and her daughter Emily were at their home in Portswood Road,
Southampton. Emily became ill and began to drift in and out of consciousness and Mrs Riley started to suffer bad headaches and began vomiting. Both were taken from the house in a barely conscious state and then taken to hospital by a neighbour suffering from severe carbon monoxide poisoning.

David MacDonald of Hythe,Southampton, was the property’s gas service engineer, and declared the boiler safe to use three times when it was not.

He pleaded guilty to three counts of breaching regulations 5(3) of the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 on dates between 6 April 2005 and 3 December 2007. 

He was fined £4,500 for these breaches. He also pleaded guilty to breaching regulation 6 (2) of the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 and was fined a further £500. Mr McDonald was also ordered to pay costs of £548.

The landlords of the property, brothers Robert and David Watts, both of Woodlands, Southampton, were repeatedly warned that the boiler needed servicing over a period of almost four years and failed to act.

Each man pleaded guilty to breaching section 3(2) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

Robert Watts was fined £7,000 and ordered to pay costs of £4,500. David Watts was also fined £7,000 and he too was ordered to pay costs of £4,500.

When HSE investigated the level of carbon monoxide produced by the central heating boiler in the family’s home, it was so high it was off the scale of the measuring equipment used by inspectors.

The HSE was pleased with the outcome of the prosecution. HSE inspector Ray Kelly said: “A
mother and daughter were put at significant risk over a period of almost three years because of the actions of two landlords and their gas service engineer. The dangers associated with carbon monoxide exposure are well known. The landlords knew there were problems with ventilation at the property and failed to service the central heating
boiler appropriately.

“This case shows that it is vitally important for landlords to understand and act upon their responsibilities around gas safety. It is only by sheer good fortune that this incident did not happen at night, or the consequences could have been far worse.”