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Gloucester firm put elderly tenant at risk from dangerous gas heater

A Gloucester firm has been sentenced for safety failings after refurbishment work on her home left an elderly tenant at risk from a dangerous gas heater.

The woman’s home in Coral Close, Holmleigh, was one of 67 properties that had been refurbished in 2012 as part of a large project undertaken by Mears Ltd for a social housing landlord.

Cheltenham Magistrates’ Court heard on 17 August that two Gas Safe engineers called at the house in August 2013 to carry out a routine annual service of the gas appliances.

The court was told that the engineers found the gas-powered warm-air unit at the property had been left in a dangerous condition as a result of the refurbishment work.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that essential combustion ventilation required for the unit had been cladded over and the flue had been removed and the roof fitted over the top, leaving it to discharge into the loft.

No blood tests had been taken from the elderly tenant, but it could not be ruled out that she was not exposed to significant carbon monoxide levels as she had suffered from numerous health problems during 2013.

Mears, of Montpellier Court, Gloucester Business Park, Brockworth, Gloucester, was fined £15,000 and ordered to pay costs of £3,587 after pleading guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

HSE inspector Caroline Bird said: “The risks from carbon monoxide poisoning are well known. It is clearly unacceptable to carry out any refurbishment work on a property that directly affects the safety of a gas appliance without first taking the necessary steps to ensure the appliance can be continued to be used safely.

“In this case, they did not just make one error in removing the entirety of the combustion ventilation, they then went on to remove the flue terminal when replacing the roof, leaving the live flue terminal discharging dangerous products of combustion into the loft.

“As principal contractors for this refurbishment project, Mears Ltd should have ensured the implications of any work were properly considered and managed. Its failings put the lives of the tenant and roofers working on the site at risk.”

Readers' comments (1)

  • CO-Gas Safety has been trying to help victims of CO or suspected CO since 1995. The problem is nearly always a lack of proof of CO. Blood tests are almost never done in time. However testing the appliances and any leak of CO into the living space is possible. You used to have to employ an expert gas court witness at a cost of around £1,500 to £5,500. However, there is now a useful qualification called CMDDA1 which costs around £100 and can be used at least for a screen before spending so much on a court expert or simply to use to take to your GP. However, to find someone to test gas appliances for CO and provide Parts Per Million of CO to the consumer the consumer has to:-
    1. Access the Gas Safe Register website.
    2. Click on advanced search. What consumer would know how to do this?
    3. Put in post code.
    4. Search for firms offering ‘fumes investigation’.
    5. Contact said firms and ask if they employ someone qualified under CMDDA1. If so, ask for their name and check under the GSR. Ask also how much it would cost to test appliances for CO and give PPM of CO in writing.
    6. When that person turns up the consumer has to check to make sure it is the person with the qualification CMDDA1.
    So far I haven't found a consumer, let alone one damaged by CO, who could do this.
    We have asked the Gas Safe Register to change their website and asked HSE to help them to do this but so far, no action has been taken although I have been told that the GSR website will be changed. Please write and ask GSR to make access to those gas safe registered installers who hold CMDDA1 (over 1,000) easier so the engineers can do their job.

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