A coroner has called on the government to change health and safety legislation after a social housing tenant died of carbon monoxide poisoning in a newly built block of flats.
Maria Ighodalo, a tenant of 67,000-home London & Quadrant, died following a carbon monoxide leak from the boiler in the flat below her home, in the Beulah Hill development, in Upper Norwood, London.
The 27-year-old was only sleeping in the room because her daughter, who was then 11 and usually occupied the room, was away and a friend was staying in Ms Ighodalo’s bedroom.
Jurors at Ms Ighodalo’s inquest last month reported that there was ‘significant evidence’ that a fault with the boiler was responsible for her death, rather than any installation or maintenance work. Ms Ighodalo died on 14 November 2007 – the development was built in 2006/07.
Coroner Roy Palmer wrote to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Health and Safety Executive after the inquest because he felt the circumstances that led to the fault not being spotted could arise again. The condensing boiler, which had a full set of gas safety certificates, is a common type installed in millions of homes, he said.
Mr Palmer acted because coroners’ rules allow him to suggest action that could be taken to prevent similar deaths occurring again.
In the letter, sent at the end of last month and seen by Inside Housing, Mr Palmer stated that gas control valves on the boiler were pre-set in the factory with no requirement for further checks to be carried out on installation. He added it is common practice for no further tests to happen.
The jury had heard evidence from an expert witness that gas appliance regulations ‘pre-dated the introduction of condensing boilers’ and that ‘many millions’ of them have been installed over the last five or six years.
Mr Palmer asked the Whitehall department and the HSE to consider if ‘present safeguards are adequate’ and suggested the government should require checks to be carried out on installation.
‘For example, could tamper-proof valves be used, or sensors installed that would detect faulty combustion and perhaps turn off the boiler if dangerous levels of carbon monoxide are produced?’ his letter added. BIS and the HSE have 56 days to respond.
Inside Housing has also been pressing for changes to gas safety legislation to prevent needless deaths from carbon monoxide poisoning. Ms Ighodalo’s circumstances mirror the death of Elouise Littlewood in Hounslow’s Bedfont Lakes development, which led to the Safe as Houses campaign.
The 26-year-old dance teacher died in the new build flat she co-owned with housing association Notting Hill in February 2008, just months after Ms Ighodalo. All of the flats had a full set of gas safety certificates.
But neither Ms Littlewood nor Ms Ighodalo’s home had carbon monoxide alarms installed – which Inside Housing’s campaign has pressed to be a mandatory requirement.
An L&Q spokesperson said: ‘Following the incident we immediately had qualified gas engineers and L&Q staff on site checking all of the properties on the Beulah Hill development and carbon monoxide detectors were installed as an added precaution.’
She confirmed that carbon monoxide alarms are now fitted as standard in all of its new build homes with a gas supply