Norfolk gas installer may face prison after gas explosion

Norwich gas installer has received an eight-month suspended prison sentence and 250 hours of unpaid community service after his inadequate work on domestic gas appliances put the lives of a mother and daughter at risk in their own home.

James Hampson, 34, of Knowland Grove, Norwich, installed a new gas boiler and associated pipework at Lynne Brown’s home on Chapel Road in Wrentham, Suffolk, on 22 December 2010. On the morning of 24 December, Mrs Brown switched on an electric kettle in her kitchen and her home exploded, causing extensive burns to her and her daughter Lucy Green.

Mrs Brown’s home after the explosion

A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found that the joint between the emergency control valve on the boiler and the flexible pipe upstream of the meter was not tightened properly and as a result was leaking gas. The gas meter, as well as the pipework leading from it, was also inadequately secured.

The gas leaked throughout the house and was ignited when Mrs Brown switched on the kettle. As well as causing severe injuries to her and her daughter, the resulting fire and explosion caused major structural damage to their home.

Ipswich Crown Court was told today that Mr Hampson had failed to ensure that the work he had carried out on the property was properly completed, therefore putting lives at risk.

Mrs Brown said: “The accident has had a devastating effect on our lives in so many ways but we are trying to remain positive about the future.”

After the hearing, HSE Inspector Malcolm Crowther said:

“Working with gas appliances is specialised and potentially very dangerous. In this case, Mr Hampson’s unsafe work cost a mother and daughter their health and their home. It could have cost them their lives.

“Mr Hampson was qualified to do the work but on this occasion he failed to ensure that all gas connections were sufficiently tight, which was a serious mistake.

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

Mr Hampson, who was self-employed and trading as Ryan Services at the time, admitted breaching Regulations 6(1) and 7(1) of the Gas Safety (Installation & Use) Regulations 1998 and was ordered to pay £10,000 costs in addition to his suspended prison sentence and hours of unpaid community service. His suspended prison sentence will remain active for two years.