A tenant was left unconscious after suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning due to the improper servicing of his gas-fired heater, Ipswich Magistrates Court heard on August 13th.
In the hearing, 27-year-old Greg Ranson, from Downing Close, Ipswich, was given an 18-week prison sentence suspended for 17 months and told to pay court costs of £813 and compensation of £1,500 to three of his victims.
The court was told that Ranson, who traded as Ranson Plumbing and Heating Ltd, had been hired to work on a flat in Sproughton during April 2014, and was supposed to service an gas-fired warm air heater.
In May, 59-year-old William Tumilty moved into the property, but because the weather was mild, he did not turn on the heater until November. However, when he turned the appliance on, he immediately began to feel ill, and felt similarly ill the next day he used the heater.
The following day, the heater automatically switched on at 16:00. At around 19:00, Mr Tumilty collapsed in his hallway, unconscious. Fortunately, at around 07:45 the next day, he regained consciousness, and later hospital tests revealed that he had suffered carbon monoxide poisoning.
Mr Tumilty was not the only person affected by the dangerous gas appliance – the occupants of a maisonette above his flat – a couple and a toddler – also required hospital treatment after breathing in carbon monoxide.
Subsequent investigations by the Health and Safety Executive revealed that the carbon monoxide had been emitted by the gas-fired heater. It was found that the heat exchanger assembly had been blocked up by dust, and that this blockage was preventing the gases produced by combustion from leaving through the flue as they should. Mr Ranson should have looked at and cleaned the heat exchanger during the gas boiler service, but the component did not appear to have been cleaned for a number of years.
Following the hearing, in which Mr Ranson pleaded guilty to a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, Health and Safety Executive Inspector Anthony Brookes said that the gas engineer’s negligence could have caused Mr Tumilty and his neighbours to lose their lives.
He said that while cases such as the one involving Mr Ranson are rare, these incidents illustrate the diligence and care qualified gas engineers must utilise when ensuring that gas-fired appliances are safe.