12 October, 2010
In October 2010 a pub chain was fined £300,000 and ordered to pay £19,000 costs at Liverpool Crown Court after one of its landlords died from carbon monoxide poisoning. Mr Paul Lee, who was the landlord of the Aintree Hotel in Bootle, had put a gas fire in this living room on before going to sleep in November 2007.
Following an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), it was said that the fire in question may not have been serviced since 1979 and that the chimney was completely blocked. The owner of the pub, Enterprise Inns plc, admitted breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
It was said in court that the pub chain was required to make sure that gas safety checks were carried out at 868 of its pubs on a yearly basis, but that just 394 had valid safety certificates. The gas fire at the Aintree Hotel should also have been checked prior to Mr Lee taking over the tenancy. The chain had previously received a written warning from HSE in 2001 which highlighted a failure to implement annual gas safety checks.
This case comes as a severe warning to Landlords on the Courts attitude when landlords do not comply with their legal obligations. Under the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 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 of property also must arrange for an annual gas safety check to be carried out every 12 months by a Gas Safe registered engineer.
If Landlords are unable to gain access to carry out the annual service then steps should be taken to seek an injunction from the Courts in order that they can comply with their legal obligations.
This tragic case clearly highlights the severe financial punishment the Court are prepared to make in addition to the reputable damage of a company caused by failing to comply with mandatory safety standards. Fines would not be covered by the terms of any insurance policy and would have to come from the business itself.