Council removed chimney stack from house that contained flue for gas fire and boiler…
Chesterfield Borough Council has been fined after a carbon monoxide leak at one of its properties put the life of a tenant at risk of being poisoned.
The carbon monoxide leak was started when a contractor visited the property to carry out some roof repair work and noticed that the chimney stack was unstable and in danger of collapsing. However the removal of the stack was a serious oversight because the stack contained the flue for a gas fire and boiler meaning there was no longer an escape route for the carbon monoxide emanating from the boiler and fire in the house. After the chimney stack was removed and capped the gas had nowhere to go and flowed back into the house through the fire in the lounge.
The leak was not discovered until six weeks after the roof maintenance work when the council was conducting its annual gas safety check on its properties on 8 October 2011.
The subsequent HSE investigation into the incident found that the Council had two separate databases informing them which of their properties contained gas appliances but they had failed to check these details before the roofing work was carried out, nor had they informed the contractor of the live gas appliances at the property.
Chesterfield Borough Council pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 for failing to maintain its property to necessary standards and not protecting tenants from the risks associated with carbon monoxide poisoning. Chesterfield Magistrates’ Court decided to fine the council £18,000 in addition to prosecution costs of £7,534.
HSE inspector Scott Wynne spoke after the hearing:
“It was pure luck that the tenant did not suffer any serious effects of carbon monoxide poisoning. This was probably due in part to the particularly warm weather at that time of year which meant the tenant often had the windows open and only used the gas boiler for hot water.
“Chesterfield Borough Council was in a position of trust. It had a duty of care to its tenant but because it did not properly consult its own records or do any kind of follow-up checks once the stack had been removed, it failed in that duty.
“It was also extremely fortunate that the annual safety inspection was due at that time. If it had been due later in the year the tenant may not have survived to tell the tale.”
Author: Julian Roberts
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