A court has heard how potentially poisonous and fatal gasses were pumped into the loft of a home in Devon.
North Devon Homes Ltd capped off the chimney of the property at Church Lake, Landkey, even though it was still in use.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said proper control and clear work instructions would have prevented this dangerous situation from arising, which could have easily caused carbon monoxide poisoning.
Barnstaple Magistrates’ Court was told how North Devon Homes Ltd employees were investigating damp at the property.
They removed a chimney and tiled over the roof in a bid to solve the problem. In doing so, however, they left the chimney terminating within the home’s loft despite that fact it was being used to flue the gas fire and gas boiler.
Several weeks after the work was completed the tenant noticed a very strong unpleasant smell in the loft. It was around this time that their carbon monoxide alarm started to sound.
The emergency gas services were called out. They classed the situation as “immediately dangerous” meaning the situation could be an immediate risk to life. The tenant had to leave until the problem was fixed.
North Devon Homes Ltd of Westacott Road, Barnstaple, pleaded guilty to a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. It was fined a total of £6,000 and ordered to pay costs of £833.
After the hearing, HSE Inspector Simon Jones described it as an incredibly dangerous situation.
He said whenever a chimney is removed or capped careful checks should be taken to ensure that the chimney is not being used and cannot be used in the future. North Devon Homes Ltd failed to do this.
Carbon monoxide is a colourless, odourless gas known as the silent killer. People do not realise it is there until they suffer the effects of inhalation, which is why it is a good idea to have carbon monoxide alarms fitted.
Minor effects include confusion, vomiting, tiredness and abdominal pain, while more serious ones range from brain swelling to nerve damage.
Source: Health and Safety Executive
Date Published: August 17, 2015
Author: Jonathan Brown