Father blinded after gas engineer’s blunder

A father of two was blinded in one eye by an explosion at his North Yorkshire home after a bungled repair to a gas fire.

Qualified gas engineer Simon Challis thought he had successfully completed the job when he asked householder Peter Cox to use the fire’s remote control to ignite it, as he was unfamiliar with the device.

However, as he activated the device the fire exploded, with the blast hitting Mr Cox in the face, severely damaging his eye. It also caused minor injuries to the gas fitter and sent debris and glass across the lounge. Mr Cox’s wife and two children were not in the room at the time and were unhurt.

Mr Cox, a 37-year-old local shop owner of North Lane, Cayton, Scarborough, was taken to hospital and has since had five operations on his eye to stabilise the damage and attempt to restore his sight.

Scarborough Magistrates’ Court was told by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) that the explosion was caused because Simon Challis wrongly connected the pipes when changing a gas valve on the fire.

The error led to gas building up within the fire so as soon as Mr Cox attempted to ignite it, the appliance exploded.

Simon Challis, of Greenlands Road, Pickering, North Yorkshire, pleaded guilty to a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 by failing to take reasonable care of himself and others while at work at the property in March 2010. He was fined £2,000 and ordered to pay £1,071 in costs.

HSE Inspector Julian Franklin said:

“This was an inexplicable and very serious mistake made by a hitherto competent gas fitter and it had appalling consequences for Mr Cox and, very nearly for all of his family.
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“Mr Cox has been left with a lifelong reminder of what was a totally avoidable incident.

“This serves to underline a crucial message to everyone, and to gas fitters in particular, that any work with gas must at all times be carried out with the utmost care, attention to detail and with safety as a number one priority.”