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Contractor sentenced after building work puts elderly couple in danger

A roofing contractor has received a suspended prison sentence after his work on a chimney stack caused a blockage above a gas fire, leaving an elderly couple exposed to deadly fumes.

What happened?

John Stanley and his team were hired to fix a water leak between a double chimney stack and roof tiles at a property in Luton. The work, however, blocked the chimney above the gas fire, creating a potentially-dangerous leak of combustion fumes within the property’s loft space.

The court heard that the team had dismantled the old double chimney to just below roof tile level to make some repairs to the roof timbers and felt. They then built a single chimney stack back up, but failed to check that the flue for the gas fire in the property’s back living room was still in full working order.

Three months later, the homeowners called an engineer to examine the gas fire, which they were having trouble lighting.

They found that the chimney that the firm had blocked up when the stack was rebuilt was the one connecting to the gas fire, rather than the one connecting to the disused and boarded-up fireplace in the property’s front living room.

A further investigation found that the gas fire had been used for over twelve months, and all the fumes had been pumped into the loft, over their bedroom, instead of through the flue and chimney.

This had left the couple at serious risk for an extended period of time, despite the fact that something as simple as a smoke test would have highlighted the issue straight away after completion of the work.

What was the outcome?

John Stanley, trading as King Roofing and Durable Plastics, pleaded guilty to a breach of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, and was given a four-month prison sentence suspended for two years and ordered to pay £500 compensation to the couple he put at risk.

HSE Inspector, Robert Meardon, said:

“John Stanley’s sub-standard work created an on-going breach and
a prolonged risk to the safety of a vulnerable and elderly
couple. It cost them a huge amount of unnecessary
anxiety and a considerable amount of money to
rectify – on top of their savings they had
used to pay Mr Stanley for the work.

“When a chimney is the flue for a gas fire, it is a vital part
of the gas installation and should only be done by a
competent gas engineer on the Gas Safe Register.

“Mr Stanley advertised himself as a specialist roofing contractor,
but he was never on the Gas Safe Register and not qualified to
carry out gas work. He should have never undertaken this
job knowing that a gas fire was linked to the chimney.

“This incident could have resulted in fatalities as gas fire fumes
can contain poisonous carbon monoxide, which can kill. It is
vital that building contractors are aware of the risks
they create and comply with the laws in place
to control the risks.”

If you have been affected by an incident such as this, and you would like expert advice, contact Hampson Hughes Solicitors today on 0800 888 6888 or email claims@hampsonhughes.com

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