Chimney mistakenly removed from apartment leaving no flue for gas fire…
A building contractor based in Glasgow has appeared in court after a family was exposed to potentially lethal carbon monoxide fumes at a flat in the city.
In June 2010 the owner of the property in Glenkirk Drive was alerted to the threat posed by the fumes when her yoong son started to experience painful headaches. The 30-year-old woman was pregnant at the time with her second child and suspected correctly that the gas fire in her living room may have been the source of the problem. She contacted a friend of hers who was a registered gas engineer and the extent of the carbon monoxide leak was revealed.
It was discovered that debris had collected behind the fireplace after the chimney had been removed from the flat. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation into the incident discovered that the building contractor had been carrying out renovations to a block of flats in the area which included the removal of redundant chimneys. They subcontracted the removal work but had neglected to offer the necessary information, guidance and supervision to the sub-contractor.
The property had been visited by the building company prior to the renovation work but their employees didn’t inform the occupants that they were removing the chimney. They also mistakenly reported that there was an electric fire in the apartment when it was, in fact, a gas fire that required the chimney as a flue in order to safely emit the fumes. As a result of the chimney removal, every time the gas fire was used, dangerous carbon monoxide fumes were sent swirling around the living space, which could have had tragic consequences if the people in the flat were exposed to them over a prolonged period of time.
The building contractor was fined £60,000 after admitting to a breach of Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 between 22 September 2008 and 20 March 2009.
HSE Inspector Helen Diamond commented after the case had been heard:
“This was, for the family, a potentially fatal combination of circumstances. But thankfully it appears they did not suffer a high degree of exposure.
“It was the building contractor’s decision to remove the chimney at this property, based on checks made by a site supervisor who had no specific trade.
“A young family was needlessly put at risk because the company fell considerably short in its duties as principal contractor. It failed to ensure a competent person was employed to determine whether properties had a gas or electric fire and then failed to provide sufficient information, instruction, training and supervision to the sub-contractor.”
Author: Julian Roberts
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