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CATALOGUE OF PC FAILINGS PUT FAMILY AT CO FUME RISK

Insufficient direction and supervision exercised over sub-contractor

Morris and Spottiswood Ltd has been fined for a “catalogue of failings” which left a family exposed to potentially fatal carbon monoxide fumes which came to light June 2010.

The owner of a Glasgow flat became concerned about the headaches experienced by her 10 year-old son and suspected a gas fire in the  living room. She asked a friend (who was a registered Gas Safe engineer) to check the appliance.

He found the space behind the fire was filled with debris and realised the chimney had been removed and debris from the demolished chimney accumulated behind the fire. The fire was “condemned” and HSE notified.

Glasgow Sherriff Court heard (2 Sept) that Morris and Spottiswood were contracted by Glasgow Housing Association to carry out renovation work on the block of flats. The project started in September 2008 and included the removal of redundant chimneys to reduce future maintenance costs.

The court was told that the flat was visited at various times in early 2009 by a Morris and Spottiswood Ltd site foreman, a client-tenant liaison officer and a gas engineer. The foreman recorded that there was an electric fire in the property rather than a gas fire which required the chimney for a flue.

The function of the gas fire was further compromised by debris that had fallen down the chimney during its removal and the fact that chimney exit was capped. This combination of circumstances resulted in the carbon monoxide being produced whenever the fire was used.

Young family needlessly put at risk by principal contractor

Morris and Spottiswood Ltd, of Helen Street, Glasgow, was fined £60,000 after pleading guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 between 22 September 2008 and 20 March 2009.

Following the case, HSE Inspector Helen Diamond, said:

“This was, for the family, a potentially fatal combination of circumstances. But thankfully it appears they did not suffer a high degree of exposure.

It was Morris and Spottiswood Ltd’s decision to remove the chimney at this property, based on checks made by a site supervisor who had no specific trade.

A young family was needlessly put at risk because the company fell considerably short in its duties as principal contractor. It failed to ensure a competent person was employed to determine whether properties had a gas or electric fire and then failed to provide sufficient information, instruction, training and supervision to the sub-contractor.”

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