A self-employed worker has been fined after illegally carrying out gas work at dozens of homes in Appleby-in-Westmorland.

Frederick Stephen Cowell, who is known by his middle name and trades as SC Services, was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after working at around 40 homes in the town despite not being registered with Gas Safe – as is legally required.

Carlisle Magistrates’ Court heard that Mr Cowell had also worked on gas fires at 25 of the properties even though he lacked the qualifications to carry out this work.

HSE was first alerted to the issue in July 2012 after an investigator from the Gas Safe Register witnessed Mr Cowell removing a gas fire from a house at Bongate Cross.

A subsequent investigation found that he had previously been registered through his former employer, but that his registration had expired over a year earlier in April 2011. Despite this, Mr Cowell had continued to carry out gas work and potentially put lives at risk.

He eventually joined the Gas Safe Register in September 2012 but failed to carry out annual gas safety checks properly and, on two occasions later that month, made entries in the records for operating pressures which were clearly false.

Stephen Cowell, 66, pleaded guilty to one breach of the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 by not being registered to carry out gas work, and two breaches of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 by making false entries on two annual gas safety records.

Mr Cowell, of St Michaels Lane in Appleby-in-Westmorland, was fined £1,900 and ordered to pay £4,123 in prosecution costs on 19 March 2014.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Matthew Tinsley said:

“Mr Cowell potentially put lives in danger by carrying out gas work he wasn’t qualified or registered to do. Even after HSE’s intervention, he did not work diligently and made clearly false entries on annual gas safety records rather than carrying out the checks properly.

“Gas work can be extremely dangerous if it isn’t carried out by trained professionals. That’s why it is a legal requirement for everyone who works with gas to be registered with Gas Safe.

“Mr Cowell knew he needed to be registered but he still took money for work at dozens of homes in Appleby.”

Russell Kramer, chief executive of Gas Safe Register, said,

“Gas work should only be carried out by those who are qualified and competent to do so. Every Gas Safe registered engineer carries an ID card that shows who they are and the kind of work they are qualified to carry out. Always check the card by calling 0800 408 5500 or visiting www.gassaferegister.co.uk link to external website.”