Gas fitter fined for unsafe installation

Simon Donohue

A Lancashire firm and senior manager have been ordered to pay more than £40,000 in fines and costs after guests at a hotel in Lytham St Annes were put at risk from unsafe gas boilers for nearly two years.

North West Mechanicals and David Hanmer were prosecuted for safety failings by the Health & Safety Executive after two new industrial boilers were installed at the Glendower Hotel on North Promenade between November 2009 and March 2010.

Blackpool Magistrates' Court heard the company had no previous experience of installing industrial boilers and was not on the Gas Safe Register – the official list for gas engineers – when it began the work.

NWML was paid just over £43,000 to replace the boilers despite not being registered or having any qualified employees who could carry out the work.

The court was told the firm did become registered in March 2010 – partway through the boiler installation – but only to carry out domestic gas work. However, the firm was still not qualified or registered for commercial work.

Once the company had finished installing the boilers, it arranged for a specialist engineer employed by the manufacturer to commission them. He raised concerns that the boilers had not been satisfactorily ventilated but, despite this, NWML still issued a certificate to the hotel to say the boilers were safe to use.

When a registered gas engineer from another company visited the hotel in September 2011 to carry out a routine service, he identified several faults with the installation and immediately disconnected the boilers.

NWML was found guilty of single breaches of the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 and the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 following a trial at Blackpool Magistrates' Court. The company, of Wyrefields in Poulton-le-Fylde, was fined £20,000 and ordered to pay £11,247 in prosecution costs.

Senior contracts manager David Hanmer, 67, received two concurrent eight-week prison sentences, suspended for 12 months, which means he will be sent to prison for eight weeks if he commits another offence within the next year. Hanmer, of Magdalen Road in Thornton-Cleveleys, was also ordered to pay £8,976 in costs.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Stuart Kitchingman, said: "Staff and guests at the hotel were put at risk of suffering carbon monoxide poisoning or being injured in a gas explosion because of the unsafe way in which NWML had installed the boilers.

"For the majority of the time the firm was installing the boilers it was not approved to carry out any kind of gas work – let alone to work with commercial boilers.

"All gas engineers must, by law, be registered with Gas Safe to prove they are qualified to carry out work safely. NWML ignored this and put lives in danger as a result.

"Anyone who hires a gas engineer should check their Gas Safe ID card to ensure that they are suitably qualified to carry out the work."

Russell Kramer, chief executive of Gas Safe Register, said: "Poorly fitted and badly maintained gas appliances can kill as they cause gas leaks, fires, explosions and carbon monoxide poisoning.

"As one in five illegal jobs we investigate are found to be immediately dangerous, it's vital that people always make sure the person employed to work on their gas appliances is on the Gas Safe Register.

"Every Gas Safe registered engineer carries an ID card which not only proves who they are but also gives details of the kind of work they are qualified to carry out."

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