A North West building firm and its director have been fined after a family of four were hospitalised due to exposure to carbon monoxide (CO) at their home.
Manchester (Minshull Street) Crown Court heard that SJW Joinery & Building Ltd and director Simon Wiley had been contracted by the homeowners to carry out building work at the house in Stalybridge.
A single storey extension had been erected around parts of the property. The roof of that extension had been built over the existing flue to the boiler, leading to it venting into an enclosed space. The products of combustion of the boiler, including the toxic and odourless gas carbon monoxide, built up in the extension and entered the house. Four people were taken to hospital with CO poisoning. All four made a full recovery.
An investigation was launched by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after National Grid notified it of the incident. The investigation found that building plans relating to the work showed that risks of carbon monoxide exposure had not been considered during the planning stage. The building work was subsequently carried out without the builders having considered these risks to the residents.
SJW Joinery & Building Ltd pleaded guilty to a breach of Regulation 8(1) of the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 has been fined £6,000 and ordered to pay costs of £4298. Director Simon Wiley pleaded guilty to a breach of Regulation 8 (1) of the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 and also Section 37 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. He has been sentenced to 200 hours community service and ordered to pay £4298 costs.
Speaking after the hearing HSE Inspector Ian Betley said:
“This incident could so easily have been avoided by simply ensuring that a suitable assessment was carried out and appropriate control measures put in place. Companies should be aware that HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those that fall below the required standards.”
It is tragic that we report on carbon monoxide poisoning most months. It is essential that boilers are serviced annually and work is conducted by a registered gas engineer. More than 200 people go to hospital with suspected carbon monoxide poisoning, which leads to around 50 deaths due to inadequately installed or unserviced gas appliances. After carbon monoxide is breathed in, it enters the bloodstream and mixes with haemoglobin (the part of red blood cells that carry oxygen around your body), to form carboxyhaemoglobin. When this happens, the blood is no longer able to carry oxygen, and this lack of oxygen causes the body’s cells and tissue to fail and die. Because carbon monoxide has no smell or taste, occupants can be unaware they are breathing in this dangerous gas. It is recommended that carbon monoxide monitors should be fitted to warn the occupant of any potential gas leaks. This is an appalling case whereby four lives were put at risk from carbon monoxide poisoning due to a lack of planning and risk assessing.