• Robert Spicer

Gas Leak: Recent Prosecution: Suspended Sentence

Gas risk: suspended prison sentence

Health and Safety Executive v John Stanley (2014) Luton magistrates’ court, July 14

A roofing contractor has been sentenced after his work on a chimney exposed householders to the risk of leaking combustion fumes.

Significant points of the case

  • In August 2011 John Stanley, a roofing contractor, was engaged to repair a water leak between a chimney stack and roof tiles by householders in Luton.

  • His team’s repair work blocked the chimney above a gas fire. This resulted in a potentially dangerous leak of combustion fumes within the house’s loft space.

  • The team failed to check that the flue for a gas fire in the house was in working order. This flue was blocked by the repair work.

  • The gas fire was used for more than a year with all its fumes going into the loft of the house instead of through the flue. This left the householders at serious risk. A simple smoke risk would have identified the issue immediately after completion of the work.

  • Stanley was not on the Gas Safe Register and was not qualified to carry out gas work. He should not have undertaken the work knowing that a gas fire was linked to the chimney.

John Stanley was sentenced to four months imprisonment, suspended for two years, for a breach of section 3, HSW Act, for failing to ensure the health and safety of non-employees. He was also ordered to pay £500 compensation.

An HSE inspector commented after the case that the incident could have resulted in fatalities, because gas fire fumes can contain carbon monoxide, which can kill. It was vital that building contractors were aware of the risks they created and complied with laws to control the risks.

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