Expert overlooked carbon monoxide problem

A gas fitter has admitted that he failed to identify defects on a boiler that left a family with carbon monoxide poisoning.

Earlier this month, Stafford Magistrates Court heard that the family – Chris Humphries, 27, Lucy Deavall, 23, and their two-year-old daughter – had been suffering with headaches and dizziness over a number of weeks in spring 2013.

And on May 24th, only two days after the couple had celebrated the birth of a newborn baby girl, their older child started vomiting.

Fearing they were suffering symptoms of the deadly gas, they went out and bought a carbon monoxide detector.

Within an hour of putting in the batteries, the device activated and the family went to hospital where they were found to have elevated levels of carbon monoxide in their blood.

A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found registered gas engineer Mark Whitfield had carried out a landlord’s gas safety certificate examination at the house in Mesnes Green, Lichfield, around six months previously – when the property was unoccupied. However, he failed to spot evident defects with the boiler and flue.

Mr Whitfield, 33, returned to the property several times the following April and May once the house had been let, but repeatedly failed to spot the problems.

He pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act and was handed a community order, requiring him to complete 240 hours’ unpaid work. He was also ordered to pay full prosecution costs of £1,185 and £1,000 compensation to the affected family.

After the hearing, HSE inspector David Brassington said: “This was a vicious storm of circumstance. Since the baby had been born the family were using the boiler more than usual to heat the house, both for the baby and the amount of visitors they were getting.

“It was that increased use of the boiler, coupled with another onset of illness, which made them suspect they were being poisoned.

“Mark Whitfield’s failures over a series of visits exposed the family to significant risk to their health whenever the boiler was in operation. As a qualified gas engineer he should have identified the faults, classified the boiler as “at risk” and initiated remedial works.”

  • Blog Categories