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Pregnant woman suffers CO poisoning after builder blocks flue

Liverpool Magistrates’ Court has fined a building company after an eight-and-a-half-month pregnant woman and her husband showed signs of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning following a loft conversion in a neighbouring property.

Topflite Loft Conversions completed the work in the summer of 2013. A gas fire was turned on in the affected couple’s home in October the same year and the woman suffered vomiting and flu-like symptoms that night, while her husband also felt nauseous.

They contacted a Gas Safe-registered company the following day, which found the gas fire flue in the cavity between the two properties had become blocked.

A warning notice preventing the use of the fire was issued and the homeowner contacted the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

An inspector found a steel beam installed in the neighbouring property’s loft had broken through the flue and blocked it.

Topflite (North West), trading as Topflite Loft Conversions, of Chorley, Lancashire, was fined £4,000 and ordered to pay £1,276 in costs after pleading guilty to a breach of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 at the end of last month.

HSE inspector Jacqueline Western said: “It’s vital that builders carefully consider the risks of any work they do in people’s homes, and that includes the effect it could have on attached properties. The work should have been properly planned so that the new steel beam could be installed without affecting the flue.

“Building firms have a legal duty to ensure the lives of both their workers and people affected by their work are not put at risk as a result of their actions. Topflite failed to meet that requirement and found itself in court as a result.”