Essex plumber may face prison after shoddy gas work left family in danger

An Essex plumber has received a twelve-month suspended prison sentence and 180 hours of unpaid community service after his firm fitted a dangerous boiler in what was to be a child’s bedroom in a house in Clacton-On-Sea.

A joint investigation by Gas Safe and the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) resulted in Lee Lawrence, trading as Amber Plumbing Solutions being taken to court and charged with three breaches of gas safety regulations.

The offences came to light after the boiler refused to work properly over several weeks and the concerned householders contacted a Gas-Safe registered engineer. The engineer condemned the boiler immediately as unsafe and alerted Gas Safe Register.

Colchester Magistrates’ Court heard today (28 August) that an inspection by a Gas Safe regional investigations officer found seven defects directly attributable to the work organised by Lee Lawrence and undertaken by Amber Plumbing Solutions.

A district judge was told the firm had carried out some bathroom work for the householders and were asked to return to carry out gas work in March 2011. The work involved the installation of a gas cooker and moving a boiler upstairs, to a bedroom intended for use by a child.

The boiler was connected in July but kept cutting out prompting the call by the residents to a Gas Safe registered engineer. He was so concerned about the standard of work, he contacted Gas Safe and HSE was later alerted.

HSE found that the advertising flyers produced by Lee Lawrence for Amber Plumbing Solutions displayed the Gas Safe logo and their website falsely stated that Amber Plumbing Solutions was a Gas Safe registered company.

He was found guilty of two breaches of Regulation 3 (7) of the Gas Safe (Installation & use Regulations) 1998 and a breach of Regulation 4 of the Gas Safety regulations. Lee Lawrence, t/a Amber Plumbing Solutions, of Church Road, Clacton on Sea, was ordered to pay £5,400 in compensation to the householder and £2,385 costs in addition to his suspended prison sentence and hours of unpaid community service.

After the hearing, HSE Inspector Edward Crick said:

“HSE works closely with inspectors from the Gas-Safe Register to ensure that those who carrying out unregistered and illegal gas work are dealt with.

“Mr Lawrence showed a blatant disregard for the safety of his customers. A registered gas engineer had no hesitation in labelling the boiler as an immediate danger to life or property. Installing it in what was to be a children’s bedroom was reckless beyond belief and could have had tragic consequences.

There is no excuse for illegally carrying out work on gas appliances and to falsely claim Gas Safe Register membership in order to defraud customers is a very serious offence.

“Any person having work done on gas appliances or pipework should thoroughly check the credentials of the individual doing the job. A registered Gas Safe engineer will be delighted to give you their registration number and this can be checked immediately on line or over the phone. HSE will take robust action against those who flout the regulations.”