20 November, 2009
In November 2009, during Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week, the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) released details of a successful prosecution which it brought against a gas engineer who was working illegally in Mansfield. The HSE and Nottinghamshire City Council Trading Standards ran a combined action against Lee Underwood, who traded as LPH and Lee Plumbing and Heating.
The allegations were that Mr Underwood had provided two gas safety certificates to individuals which had false CORGI registration details and on another occasion there was also a false business address. It should be noted that the offences were said to have taken place between May and November 2008, when the CORGI registration scheme was still in force (from April 2009, the Gas Safe Register has taken over this role). He was also said to have been advertising in the local press that he was CORGI registered, when this was in fact not the case.
Following complaints, CORGI made a number of investigations. They found that in one property in Derbyshire which Mr Underwood had worked at, the boiler, which remained in operation, was classified by the inspector as an immediate risk to life and property and had to be disconnected immediately.
Mr Underwood pleaded guilty at Mansfield Magistrates' Court in September 2009 and was sentenced the following month at Nottingham Crown Court. He was given a 52 week prison sentence, suspended for 2 years, for providing the false registration and business address. He was also given a further prison sentence of 20 weeks, again suspended and to run concurrently with the first, for falsely advertising that he was CORGI registered. The judge also ordered Mr Underwood to complete 100 hours of unpaid work and to pay costs of over £4,500.
The sentence shows how seriously the courts view breaches such as these, which endanger the lives of those who live in the properties. It is advised that all landlords have gas work carried out by correctly registered engineers.
From April 2009, the Capita Gas Safe Register is the only gas installer registration scheme approved by the HSE under the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998, thus replacing the previous CORGI registration. All installers (including those used by landlords) wanting to undertake domestic gas work will need to be registered with the Gas Safe scheme in order to be able to lawfully carry out any work on both gas fittings and appliances in a property.
All providers of housing are under a legal duty to arrange maintenance of all gas pipe work, appliances and flues which are used by tenants by a Gas Safe registered engineer. Landlords also must arrange for an annual gas safety check to be carried out every 12 months by a Gas Safe registered engineer. When such a check is carried out, a record of the inspection must be held for two years and a copy must be provided to each tenant within 28 days of the check being completed. A copy must also be issued before a new tenant moves into a property.
Carbon monoxide has no smell or taste which makes identifying its presence very difficult. It can kill people without warning. In order to avoid this happening, it is advised that all residential gas appliances are properly maintained and that an annual safety check is carried out. It may also be beneficial to install carbon monoxide detectors in the property as a precautionary measure.
The HSE has stated that every year around 20-30 people die from carbon monoxide poisoning associated with domestic gas appliances incorrectly installed or maintained. The importance of using registered gas engineers cannot be underestiamted because of this.
This case is just the latest in a line of situations which emphasise the importance of carrying out gas safety checks at properties. A failure to do so can not only lead to a substantial fine for landlords, but also has the potential of causing serious injuries to tenants, their families, guests and neighbouring properties.