Illegal gas fitter sentenced

A Barnsley plumber, who left a householder in danger after posing as a qualified gas engineer and badly fitting a new boiler at their home, has been given a suspended prison sentence.

Self-employed trader Mark Dixon of Royston, Barnsley, charged the homeowner £1,200 to carry out the work at the property on Darton Street but when independent gas experts were called to investigate, the work was classed as an ‘immediate danger’.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which brought the prosecution against Mr Dixon, told Sheffield Crown Court that his incompetence had exposed the homeowner to serious risk.

The court heard Mr Dixon carried out the installation between 9 October and 30 November 2010. The householder reported the issue to Gas Safe Register in January 2011 after the boiler failed to work properly despite several attempts to fix it by Mr Dixon.

The plastic material which had been pushed into a gap where the flue meets the boiler chimneyThe plastic material which had been pushed into a gap where the flue meets the boiler chimney

The Gas Safe Regional Investigations officer found the boiler’s chimney had not been properly connected to the flue and Mr Dixon had pushed plastic insulation material down a separation gap to try to form a seal. This defect was deemed immediately dangerous as the material would melt when temperatures rose causing fumes to enter the roof space.

Mark Dixon of Pools Lane, Royston, Barnsley, pleaded guilty to four charges under the Gas Safety (Installation & Use) Regulations 1998. He was sentenced to four months in prison, suspended for two years, plus 180 hours’ community service. A compensation order for £1,200 to the householders involved was also made.

After the hearing, HSE Inspector Carol Downes said:

“Unregistered installers who carry out gas work expose people to unacceptable risks that can prove fatal.

“Mr Dixon pretended to be Gas Safe registered and was happy to take the homeowner’s money, disregarding the serious harm and injury he could have caused.  Any business or sole trader who carries out work on any gas appliance without being properly trained and registered is breaking the law and HSE will not hesitate to prosecute.

“On average, 20 people die each year from carbon monoxide poisoning caused by poorly installed, maintained or ventilated gas appliances and flues. Many more become seriously ill and, in some cases, prolonged exposure can cause paralysis and brain damage.

“We would urge anyone who has concerns about gas work they’ve had done to contact Gas Safe Register as a priority to have the work checked.”

Paul Johnston, chief executive of Gas Safe Register, said:

“Gas work should only be undertaken by someone qualified and competent to do so. Every Gas Safe registered engineer has an ID card which confirms that they are who they say they are and also contains information about the types of work they are able to undertake. If you are having gas work undertaken you should always ask to see the card or check with us by visiting link to external website or calling 0800 408 5500.”