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Gas safety inspections deemed unsatisfactory

The father of Elisabeth Giauque, the six-year-old girl who died of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning, has described the gas safety inspection and servicing processes which allowed a faulty boiler to be deemed safe as “weak”.


Noonday Asset Management partner, portfolio manager and chief compliance officer Nicolas Giauque is calling on CORGI and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to take into account the findings of this and similar CO incidents and modify the training, inspection and penalty regimes accordingly.


Mr Giauque spoke to H&V News after Hussein Jajbhay, the director of Amadeus Investments, was fined £20,000 and ordered to pay £35,000 costs at Blackfriars Crown Court for “failure of maintenance and failure to maintain a gas fitting in a safe condition”.


Elisabeth died in February 2005 after inhaling CO 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. The HSE investigation revealed that the last service and maintenance of the boiler took place in January 2002. The latest landlord’s gas safety certificate (GSC) was issued in January 2003.


During the court case it was revealed that the boiler did not meet the ventilation requirements, yet none of the authorised heating engineers who checked and serviced the boiler spotted this. Mr Giauque charged them with incompetence.


“The people who issued the GSCs on my boiler should never have issued them,” he said. “It was determined in court and by another CORGI registered installer, hired by myself, that the boiler had inappropriate ventilation. The ventilation which was in place to allow the boiler to burn properly and to allow any carbon monoxide to leave the room was flawed.


“There are installers out there with the CORGI seal of approval who are incompetent. I think CORGI should be concerned about the people operating under its name.”


He added: “You’ve got an installation and inspection system which is based on minimal amounts of training, where there’s no obligation to conduct formalised, independent testing with robust electronic equipment which can determine whether a flue has been installed correctly or not. The current system is purely visual, purely intuitive – nothing with a record. That’s a weakness.”


His sentiments were echoed by Judge Aidan Marron QC, who said it was a “truly lamentable situation that so many authorised personnel failed to reveal deficiencies in the system”.


Mr Giauque concluded: “There’s a training issue and there’s a findings issue. There’s got to be something that costs something to somebody. I don’t know how many people CORGI strikes from its register but I would like it and the HSE to implement a process where they fine people real amounts of money for system failures. There’s zero accountability.”


The HSE said it was reviewing the Landlords Annual Safety Check Requirement of the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 and would be seeking stakeholder views on ideas this autumn. “This will not be a full consultation paper but a discussion document,” the spokesperson concluded.