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Welcome to January’s Health and Safety Update. In this month’s issue:

Working with Gas Safely

Gas appliances present many hazards - fire, explosion and carbon monoxide poisoning to name but a few. In this month's edition we will identify measures in which to minimise the effects of carbon monoxide exposure resulting from faulty/damaged gas appliances and identify the results to individuals and companies for failing to apply the relevant laws to gas safety. Recent research - by the Gas Safe Register - has estimated that 250,000 illegal gas jobs are being carried out in Great Britain every year. But it is also concerned by cases where previously safe installations are compromised by other trades - some of whom may not even have considered the impact of their work.

Under Regulation 8 of the Gas Safety (Installation & Use) Regulations 1998, those working in trades other than gas also have a legal duty not to compromise the safety of gas installations in the course of their work.

It is widely recognised that health and safety should always come first as part of any building project and this includes where gas installations are concerned. Just like gas engineers, all trades have a legal duty to make sure that the work carried out doesn't make an installation unsafe. For example, roofers must check that they are not adversely affecting a flue system; kitchen-fitters must take care not to build a cupboard too close to a cooker; and double-glazing fitters must not block essential ventilation when putting up new windows. It is also essential that any gas work undertaken on a building project is carried out by a Gas Safe registered engineer. Regarding this issue, there is no 'one size fits all' guidance with regard to ultimate legal responsibility. However, the Register is reminding tradesmen that the Health & Safety at Work, etc. Act is the 'umbrella' legislation in this context, and any work carried out must meet its requirements.

Measures that can be taken against carbon monoxide exposure

Ensure that any work carried out in relation to gas appliances in commercial premises is to be undertaken by a Gas Safe Registered engineer, competent in that area of work.

You are strongly advised that gas appliances and/or flues are installed and serviced regularly for safety by a Gas Safe Registered engineer. Always make sure there is enough fresh air in the rooms containing your gas appliances. If you have a form of extraction, ensure it is not blocked, ensure it is maintained and also ensure that vents are not covered.

If you have appliances that use other fossil fuels, make sure they are serviced and maintained by a competent person.

Illegal gas fitter sentenced to community service

A self-employed plumber has been prosecuted for continuing to carry out illegal work on gas boilers in Luton despite orders to stop. Mr T. admitted breaching health and safety laws when he appeared at Luton and South Bedfordshire Magistrates' Court. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) had warned Mr T. in 2003 about carrying out work on gas fittings when he was not registered to do so, a legal requirement for anyone carrying out such work. However, HSE earlier this year learned that Mr T. had again worked illegally on gas appliances. Legitimate gas engineers told HSE the plumber had left gas boilers in dangerous conditions at two homes in the area. Magistrates ordered Mr T. to 180 hours of community service and ordered him to pay £250 costs. He had already received a formal notice prohibiting him from continuing with gas work until competent enough to do so.

After the sentencing, HSE Inspector Stephen Manley, said: "It is illegal for an unregistered person to carry out work on a gas appliance. When unqualified workers try to bypass the law in this way they are not only putting themselves at risk of prosecution and a large fine, they are also putting their customers' lives at risk as Mr T. did here. "Working with gas appliances is difficult, specialised and potentially very dangerous. Only qualified and registered engineers should attempt it."

"HSE will not hesitate to prosecute those who break the law in this way."

Mr T. admitted two breaches of Regulation 3(3) of the Gas Safety (Installation & Use) Regulations 1998 and one breach of Section 3(2) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.

The Chief Executive of Gas Safe Register added: "Badly fitted and poorly serviced gas appliances can cause gas leaks, fires, explosions and carbon monoxide poisoning. If you're having gas work done, no matter how big or small the job, only use a Gas Safe registered engineer. Always check the engineer's ID card to make sure they are qualified for the work you need doing. Just because an engineer can work on boilers doesn't mean he can automatically fit a gas fire."

Gas Safe Register is the official list of gas engineers who are registered to work safely and legally on gas appliances. By law, all gas engineers must be on the Gas Safe Register. To find an engineer go to www.GasSafeRegister.co.uk or call 0800 408 5500. Always check the engineer's Gas Safe Register ID card.

Fines under the Fire Safety Order

The owner of a food factory, a landlord and a local businessman are among those who have been recently prosecuted under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order in England.

In the first case, The New Kong Nam Food Production Company, paid out more than £20,000 after pleading guilty to seven breaches of the Order. An inspection of the factory in Edmonton, Northeast London, found a number of shortcomings, including an inadequate fire risk assessment, no emergency plan and no evidence of fire safety training for staff. In addition, there was no fire protection to the first-floor escape route (this floor was being used for sleeping accommodation) and the windows to the escape route were not fire resistant. An enforcement notice was issued requiring the company to remedy the faults but, despite extensions being given, they failed to correct all of the problems. They were fined £14,000 and ordered to pay £6,300 costs.

In a separate case, a landlord from Cheshire was fined £6,000 fines and ordered to pay £2,500 costs for eight breaches under the Order. The landlord was prosecuted by Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service when a routine audit of his three-floor property in Widnes - the top two floors of which had been converted into a number of flats - identified various safety failures. The problems included a blocked escape route, locked fire escapes and an inadequate alarm system. The court heard that Mr M., who pleaded guilty, failed to understand his fire safety responsibilities as a landlord to adequately assess risks.

A restaurant owner in North Yorkshire was also prosecuted recently. Mr L. pleaded guilty to 10 breaches of the Order following a serious fire at the China Wok in Stokesley in January 2010, when two occupants trapped on the upper floors of the building had to be rescued by fire crews. Fining him £15,000 with £754 costs, the court heard that Mr L had allowed people to sleep in the premises, despite not having adequate means of escape, a fire alarm or detection system, no emergency lighting and no fire extinguishers.

  • 1st January 2011

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