Apollo Property Services Group, part of Keepmoat Group, has been ordered to pay over £300,000 after seven residents were hospitalised by carbon monoxide fumes that escaped into their homes.
The incident, at Abbey Road Estate in Camden, took place between 18 February and 18 March 2008.
During a two-week trial, the Central Criminal Court heard that seven residents were exposed to carbon monoxide because boiler flues servicing the flats were obstructed during roof refurbishment work.
A Health and Safety Executive investigation found that Apollo knew some flues may be serving boilers in the properties, but did not have an adequate system for inspecting them.
Work continued without the checks being carried out.
The HSE also says the company failed to ensure that the work was properly supervised, and didn’t ensure that workers were familiar with safe working practices and aware of the risks.
The property giant was fined £165,000, and ordered to pay £117,582 in costs and £19,000 in compensation after being found guilty of breaching section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act.
HSE inspector Helen Donnelly said: “Despite the client’s adviser warning the company to consider the risk of blocking or covering flues at the start of the refurbishment project, the company did not assess the risks to residents or have a safe system to ensure flues serving live boilers were not obstructed.
“Moreover, as part of one of the UK’s largest property service organisations, Apollo Property Services Group Limited is very experienced in refurbishing Housing estates so there is no reason for this incident to have happened.”
Prolegal head of complex litigation Ben Posford said: “It is a common misunderstanding by tenants and landlords alike that annual gas safety inspections include checking for carbon monoxide leaks, but this simply isn’t the case.
“Unless a CO alarm is fitted in each room (costing £10-£15 each) where a gas appliance is used, then no one will be aware there is a leak, and as with my clients the majority of people who suffer from CO poisoning suffer years of fatigue and low-grade symptoms which have a huge effect on a person’s lifestyle and employment.”