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Moonlighting gas engineer sentenced after illegal work

A domestic gas engineer has been sentenced to 90 hours community payback after carrying out work on commercial catering premises when he was not competent to do.

James Richard Harvey Skinner, 43, of Cairngrassie Circle, Portlethen, Aberdeenshire, was employed by a gas company but, unknown to them, he did private gas fitting work in commercial take-aways and restaurants as an unregistered gas engineer.

Aberdeen Sheriff Court heard that Mr Skinner issued Gas Safety records on the wrong forms using a Gas Safe registration number that he fraudulently claimed was his own, which turned out to belong to a former employer.

Mr Skinner’s activities were investigated by the Health and Safety Executive after complaints from Gas Safe Register and Aberdeenshire Council.

A Gas Safe engineer visited two take-aways and found a number of safety issues that a gas engineer with catering competence should have identified including an open-ended gas pipe that was left uncapped.

HSE said this could have caused a significant build-up of gas and a subsequent explosion had the isolation valve been turned by mistake and the gas ignited. An immediate Prohibition Notice was issued halting use of the relevant gas appliances until they were made safe.

Mr Skinner was sentenced to a 90 hour community payback order, a direct alternative to a custodial sentence, after pleading guilty to four breaches of the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 and also to a breach of Section 3(2) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

After sentencing, HSE inspector John Radcliffe said: “In carrying out this commercial work while not registered and competent to do so, Mr Skinner put those working in these premises, those living and working nearby and customers visiting them at risk.

“Any business or sole trader who carries out work on any commercial gas appliances without being on the Gas Safe Register is breaking the law and potentially putting lives in danger.

“Despite Mr Skinner being a competent domestic gas engineer, who at the time was employed by a well-known company, he did not have current commercial catering qualification/competencies and as a result was operating illegally.

“By knowingly using the registration number of another business, Mr Skinner compounded the severity of his actions by giving his clients a sense of security and safety that was entirely false.”

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