Contractor instructed to remove and cap chimney with ‘live’ gas flue 

Chesterfield Borough Council has been fined after carbon monoxide fed back into a property putting the tenant at risk of poisoning.

A contractor carrying out roof work on property advised the council that the chimney stack was in danger of collapse and the council arranged for the chimney to be removed and capped.

However, the stack contained the flue for a gas fire and gas-fired back boiler. Removal and capping of the chimney withdrew the direct route for carbon monoxide and combustion products from the fire and boiler to be safely vented to open air causing dangerous gas to feed back into the house. This was discovered some six weeks later (8 October 2011) when the council was carrying out the annual gas safety check on the property.

HSE investigators found working gas appliances were listed on two separate Council databases but the council failed to check and the presence of the live gas appliances was not mentioned to the roofing contractor. The chimney stack was removed and the subsequent invoice detailing the work was paid by the council without question.

Council failed to properly consult own records

Chesterfield Borough Council pleaded guilty to breaching HSW Act Section 3(1) for failing to maintain its property in such a way that the tenant was not exposed to the risks associated with carbon monoxide and were fined (13 December) £18,000 and ordered it to pay costs of £7,534.

After the hearing HSE inspector Scott Wynne said: “It was pure luck that the tenant did not suffer any serious effects of carbon monoxide poisoning. This was probably due in part to the particularly warm weather at that time of year which meant the tenant often had the windows open and only used the gas boiler for hot water.

Chesterfield Borough Council was in a position of trust. It had a duty of care to its tenant but because it did not properly consult its own records or do any kind of follow-up checks once the stack had been removed, it failed in that duty.

It was also extremely fortunate that the annual safety inspection was due at that time. If it had been due later in the year the tenant may not have survived to tell the tale.”

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