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Hundreds of residents endangered by gas faults
Published:  22 September, 2014

A plumbing and heating company and two of its self-employed staff members have been fined following an investigation into numerous faulty gas installations at new developments in Poole and Reading.

The investigation by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) led to the prosecution of DSI Plumbing & Heating, Robert Percival and Andrew Church at Bournemouth Crown Court today (22 September 2014).

The court heard that Harbour Reach in Poole – which contained 261 flats and 79 town houses – and Caversham Road in Reading – which contained 60 flats – were heated by gas boilers installed on internal walls, with flue gases vented to the open air by flues installed in building voids. In such situations inspection hatches must be provided to allow the flues to be periodically checked for safety.

At Harbour Reach, the HSE’s investigations found faults including gas leaks, and flues and gas supply pipes that had not been properly fitted. Furthermore there were no inspection hatches originally installed in any of the ceilings of the flats, meaning that the flues could not be subsequently checked for safety. As a result, the gas supply to all 340 gas meters on the Harbour Reach site had to be disconnected until remedial action was taken. The investigation also revealed evidence of defects in the installations in 309 of the dwellings.

At Caversham Road in Reading, HSE’s investigation uncovered defects in the gas installation affecting 40 properties. Inspection hatches were not initially installed, and defects were found with both gas supply and flue installations.

DSI Plumbing & Heating pleaded guilty to two breaches of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and was fined a total of £10,000 and ordered to pay a further £1,000 in costs.

Mr Percival and Mr Church both pleaded guilty to a single breach of the same legislation – Mr Percival for his commissioning of gas installations at one property, and Mr Church for making false entries into documents. They were both given a two-year conditional discharge and were each ordered to pay costs of £250.

After sentencing, HSE head of operations Harvey Wild said: “These serious failings involving gas safety only came to light after residents started to complain about ill health. It is fortunate that in this case, no one suffered long-term ill effects, but the consequences of the faults, if left undetected, could have been fatal.

“Gas installers need to make sure flues and pipes can be properly checked and all installations are checked for safety as part of commissioning to ensure lives are not put at risk.”