• Robert Spicer

Recent health and safety prosecution

Dangerous gas work: £20,000 fine

Health and Safety Executive v Newport City Council (2013) Cwmbran magistrates’ court, June 24

Newport City Council has been fined after a woman and her foster children were exposed to the danger of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Significant points of the case

• In November 2010 Newport City Council contracted a home improvement company to carry out loft conversion work at a property in Bettws, Newport, South Wales. The householder had agreed to modifications of her property, with a grant from the local authority, to accommodate foster children.

• The work included moving a boiler into the loft and replacing a gas fire flue. The householder complained that the boiler was leaking and was not working properly. She arranged for an inspection by an independent engineer.

• The engineer discovered that the boiler was leaking and that the pressure relief valve had not been connected. He advised the householder not to use the equipment.

• A Gas Safe officer found that the boiler had not been correctly fitted and that the gas fire flue had been capped below the level of the loft. This allowed carbon monoxide gas into the loft, and was classified as immediately dangerous.

• Newport City Council had not checked the competence of the contractor and had not monitored its work. It had not followed its own procedures for choosing contractors.

Newport City Council was fined £20,000 plus £11,000 costs under section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work, etc., Act 1974 for failing to ensure the health and safety of non-employees.

A spokesperson for the HSE is reported to have commented after the case that the shoddy and careless work by the contractors could have cost a family with young children their lives. Anyone carrying out work on or near a flue should get advice from a Gas Safe registered engineer before starting work.

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