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CARBON MONOXIDE RISK ON MASSIVE SCALE

Major pub chain fined £300k after death and failure to inspect gas appliances

Enterprise Inns plc has been fined £300,000 after a Merseyside pub landlord died from carbon monoxide poisoning. The investigation found that tenants at a further 474 pubs were put at risk.

Paul Lee was found unconscious by a cleaner at the Aintree Hotel on Aintree Road in Bootle just after midday on 12 November 2007. He had turned on a gas fire in his living room ten hours earlier before falling asleep.

The 41-year-old suffered a heart attack and died the following morning without regaining consciousness. He had worked as the tenant landlord at the pub for less than a month.

HSE investigators found that the fire may not have been serviced since 1979 and the chimney was completely blocked.

Widespread lack of valid gas certificates

The West Midlands based company owns almost 8000 premises across the UK and should have ensured that gas safety inspections were carried out at 868 of its pubs at least every 12 months. Only 394 had valid certificates.

The gas heater which caused Mr Lee’s death should have been checked before he took over the tenancy.

Enterprise Inns had received a written warning from HSE in 2001 highlighting a systematic failure to implement annual gas safety checks.

Iain Evans, the investigating inspector at HSE, said:

“It is shocking that a major pub chain failed to ensure regular gas safety checks were carried out at more than 400 of its properties. As a result, one man has been killed and hundreds of other lives have been put at risk.

Tests we carried out on the gas fire at the Aintree Hotel showed that the workplace limit for exposure to carbon monoxide would have been exceeded within five minutes of it being turned on, and would have reached a level known to be fatal within an hour.

The chimney from the fire was completely blocked so there was nowhere for the carbon monoxide to escape. Instead, it gradually built up in the room and starved Mr Lee’s organs of oxygen until he was left unconscious.

What makes this case so tragic is that Mr Lee’s life could have been saved if Enterprise Inns had continued to obey the written warning it received about gas safety six years earlier, instead of falling back into old habits.”

Enterprise Inns plc, of Monkspath Hall Road in Solihull was ordered to pay £19,000 towards the cost of the prosecution in addition to the fine at Liverpool Crown Court on 5 October.

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