Manchester Crown Court has fined an energy company formerly of Swansea £500,000 and ordered to pay £24,968.44 in prosecution costs after pleading guilty to a single breach of the Health and Safety at Work Act etc. 1974.
The energy company (now in liquidation) was tasked with installing cavity wall insulation into the property of an eighty three year old pensioner from Middleton. The insulation was offered free of charge as part of a subsidised programme by energy companies.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) told the court that three engineers from the firm visited the elderly lady’s house in October 2012 to install the insulation. Holes were drilled into the bricks and the insulation beads blown into the cavity.
One of the employees, on checking the boiler, noticed that some insulation beads had collected at the back of the boiler. The worker contacted the main office to advise his managers but no action to send a gas engineer was taken.
The son of the pensioner was advised not to use the boiler but was not told how dangerous using the heating could be.
The HSE advised the court that the energy employees neglected to notify the National Grid of the issue, did not switch off the boiler or leave a warning notice.
During that evening the pensioner’s son turned up the thermostat. Two hours later he felt dizzy and on checking his mother found her unresponsive.
A post mortem confirmed that the lady’s death was due to carbon monoxide poisoning. Her son and a paramedic that attended the scene were found to have high levels of carbon monoxide in their blood.
After the case was heard, HSE Inspector Lisa Bailey said:
“It was a natural reaction for [ the lady’s] son to turn on the heating when it began to get cold, especially as he hadn’t been made aware of the potential dangers.”
“The boiler should have been switched off by the company, and warning signs should have been stuck on the side. If this had happened then I am sure the heating would have remained off throughout the evening.”
“[The company] should also have arranged for a registered gas engineer or National Grid to visit to property as soon as possible but, again, this did not happen.
“The company knew about the risks from its work but its safety standards fell well below the legal minimum. As a result, an elderly woman has lost her life.”
More information on gas safety is available at www.hse.gov.uk/gas.