• Robert Spicer

The Little Book of Health and Safety Horrors Part 11: Garages and Gas

GARAGES

Garage pit fall: serious injuries

The injured customer’s car was parked in front of a vehicle inspection pit. Farhad Mashinchi, the garage owner, was showing the customer a part fitted under the bonnet when the customer fell into the pit. He suffered multiple injuries. Mashinchi had allowed a member of the public into the garage with an open pit without suitable and sufficient precautions to prevent a fall. Putting a barrier around the pit would have prevented the fall.

Burns from oil drum

A mechanic employed by Kankku Ltd, a garage company, was badly burned while trying to cut the top off an empty oil drum.The remaining oil inside the drum caught fire and caused an explosion. The mechanic suffered burns to his hands and arms. Tops were cut from empty oil drums once every three months for the storage of scrap metal. The company failed to consider the risk of the propane torch creating and igniting a vapour from the small amount of oil remaining in the drums.

GAS

Carbon monoxide poisoning

Mehboob and Suraiya Bobat, landlords of a house in Bolton, were fined after tenants suffered carbon monoxide poisoning.

A man, his wife and their four-month old child were taken to hospital, suffering symptoms which included headaches, palpitations and breathing difficulties. They were treated for high levels of carbon monoxide poisoning. The HSE investigation found that four gas appliances at the house were unsafe, and the landlords had failed to arrange an annual gas safety check. A gas-powered water heater in the kitchen of the house should only have been used for five minutes at a time because it did not have a flue. It had emitted high levels of carbon monoxide. The heater and a gas heater in a bedroom were classified as immediately dangerous by a gas engineer.

Dangerous gas work: risk of carbon monoxide poisoning

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. 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.

Illegal gas work: prison sentence

Neil Simon McKimm carried out gas work including the servicing of boilers. He used the alias of a legitimate gas engineer to deceive his customers. He repeatedly falsely pretended to be a legitimate Gas Safe engineer and falsely signed official records in the name of a legitimate gas engineer. He was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment in May 2016. An HSE inspector commented after the case that the HSE would robustly pursue those who broke the law.

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