Essex fireplace fitters fined £4k + £10k costs after gas leak

An Essex fireplace installation company has been fined after their inadequate work on domestic gas pipes put a family’s life at risk in their own home.

Fireplaces by Heals, of London Rd, Leigh-on-Sea, was commissioned to install a new fireplace at a home in Leigh-On-Sea, Essex, on 28 February 2012. Due to a shortage of staff, the company’s retired director, Les Heal, was sent out to prepare the area for the fitting of the new fireplace. He removed a section of gas pipe that was protruding through the floor and carpet and then capped the pipe underneath the floorboards with a compression joint.

When the householder got home from work at 5am after a night shift, he immediately smelt a strong gas odour throughout the house including in the main bedroom, where his wife was sleeping.

A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found that the joint had been capped with an inadequate fitting and in an inaccessible place, which is contrary to British standards and potentially dangerous.

Southend Magistrates’ Court was told today (30 August) that Fireplaces by Heals had failed to use a competent and Gas Safe registered engineer to ensure that the work carried out on the property had been properly completed, therefore putting lives at risk.

After the hearing, HSE Inspector Edward Crick said:

“Fireplaces by Heals knew that work on a gas pipe needed to be done at this property. They failed to ensure it was done by a Gas-Safe registered engineer on this occasion, despite using registered engineers on a regular basis.

“This failure resulted in a significant gas leak at the householder’s property and it is only a matter of luck that there was no serious damage or injuries as a result.

“HSE will not hesitate to prosecute those who put lives at risk in this way.”

Paul Johnston, chief executive of Gas Safe Register added:

“A quarter of a million illegal gas jobs are carried out every year by people who don’t have the skills or the qualifications to work safely with gas. It’s therefore vital that people always make sure the person working on their gas appliances is on the Gas Safe Register. If they don’t, they could be putting their family’s lives and homes at risk from gas fires, explosions, leaks and carbon monoxide poisoning.

“You can check if your engineer is legal and safe to work with gas by asking for the Gas Safe ID card. You can also check the engineer’s identification number by calling us on 0800 408 5500, or visiting the website link to external website.”

Fireplaces by Heals was found guilty of breaching Regulations 3(2) and 4 of the Gas Safety (Installation & Use) Regulations 1998, and Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. They were fined £4,000 and ordered to pay £10,000 costs.

More information about gas safety is available on HSE’s website at: