Carbon Monoxide death leads to arrest of gas installer and his apprentice


03 April, 2008

A Sheffield council worker has been found dead in his home, having suffered suspected carbon monoxide poisoning.

A CORGI-registered gas installer and an apprentice heating engineer have been arrested in connection with the tragic incident.

The deceased, named as 41-year-old Mark Ellis, was discovered at his home in Dodworth, Barnsley on Monday 18 February 2008. His death came a matter of weeks after a new boiler had been installed in his property.

South Yorkshire Police have confirmed the arrests of the installer and apprentice from the firm that fitted the boiler. Neither the individuals nor the firm can be named for legal reasons, however it is known that both men were detained and questioned.

Detective Sergeant Trigg, who is leading the enquiry alongside, the Health and Safety Executive, was quick to point out that the investigation is still in its early stages. Initial questioning has commenced and the police are focusing their attention on the gas installation inside Mr. Ellis' property.

Whilst further investigation is pending the arrests have drawn murmurs of discontent from industry professionals, particularly with regard to the position of the apprentice. Concern has been expressed as to the potential situation that could see an unqualified apprentice take responsibility for such a death.

Industry bodies HVCA, BEST and ARGI maintain that holding a person who is not fully qualified responsible for an installation is unmerited as they are still under training. Rather, it should be the CORGI-registered engineer who is supervising the work who is held accountable.

The position from a legal stand point is not entirely clear. The matter would depend upon the level of duty of care owed by the apprentice. Often that is difficult to assess and would be determined upon the level of competence that the apprentice has this test in itself is very much subjective. However, many industry insiders feel that to hold an apprentice liable for his work, especially when it is ratified by a superior, is unfair and the duty of care must lie with the registered gas installer who signs the work off as complete.

The incident serves as a stark reminder to social landlords of the importance of ensuring that gas installations are installed by competent professionals. Furthermore, once the installation has been fitted, a rigorous safety procedure must be implemented and carried out to ensure that, firstly, the landlord complies with their responsibilities under the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 and, more importantly, there is not a repeat of this tragic event.

For further information please contact Stuart Penswick, Lachlan McLean or Sam Gorrell in the Housing Litigation team on 01772 220022.


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