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Written by
on 19 April 2012


Loss of life due to Lapse in Gas Safety Standards

The life of Zoe Anderson was tragically cut short after she was overcome by carbon monoxide in her bathroom in 2010. In the two weeks prior to her death Andrew Hartley, a gas fitter from Somerset worked on the boiler in the property Miss Anderson was staying in which belonged to her father.  Although Judge Neil Ford QC acknowledged that there wasn’t any hostile intention in the work carried out by Mr Hartley the defendant was sentenced to three years after being found guilty of manslaughter by gross negligence.

Flue Pipe Was Not Correctly Installed

The case took two weeks and came after Mr Hartley has already been prosecuted for breaching gas safety regulations where he pleaded guilty. Mr Hartley installed a brand new boiler in the property in December 2010. The experienced gas fitter felt he had installed the flue correctly; however he had failed to secure it with screws causing the flue to slip.  This was a botch job seemingly carried out in a hurry that resulted in carbon monoxide leaking from the flue pipe and into the property.

It was believed that Miss Anderson slipped and bumped her head when her body was discovered by her boyfriend. However tests showed that carbon monoxide poisoning was the cause and so an investigation was carried out and Mr Hartley has been forthcoming with the police, feeling guilty for the loss of life and admitting his errors.

A Warning for Tradesmen

A detective who led the investigation stated that although Mr Hartley did not intentionally cause the death of Miss Anderson the sentence was simply to reflect the severity of the failings in the work and to serve as a message to all other tradesmen to ensure they are aware of the duty they have to their customers. The case has also shown that carbon monoxide is a serious danger to life and the importance of using carbon monoxide detectors in all properties to help detect any leakages.

By law anyone who works on gas appliances needs to be registered with the Gas Safe Register. In order to be accepted on the register engineers need to show they have expertise in their field, have qualifications and also have certificates to prove they are competent when working with gas.  Everyone on the Gas Safe register must go through tests every five years to show they still have the skills required to work with gas.

One Error Can Lead to Loss of Life

In this incident Mr Hartley was on the register and he had many years’ worth of excellent service to his customers. This one lapse led to the loss of life of Miss Anderson and although Mr Hartley pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act relating to gas appliances he felt that he was not guilty of manslaughter. He said that he tested the gas boiler and left it working properly after being tested. However because the screws were missing from the flue he was found guilty.

If you are a gas fitter or a landlord you must take gas seriously.  Health and Safety Consultants may be able to help you with their health and safety services and inform you of your duties relating to the law. Call 0800 1488 677 for further help and information.

About the author

David Cant is a Director at Veritas Consulting. The SME’s favourite go-to consultant for health and safety know-how. Bucket loads of experience. Fluent in practical advice. Solutionist with a brain you can pick. You can find him across social media on Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin.