Plumber prosecuted for illegal gas work after couple burned in explosion

A Lincolnshire plumber has been prosecuted for carrying out illegal gas work after a couple suffered severe burns in a major explosion at their home.

Daniel George Hickling, trading as DGH Plumbing and Heating, was hired by the couple to reduce the height of two redundant LPG gas pipes in an old kitchen which was being converted into a living room at their Nettleton home.

After he left the property on 21 July 2011 the couple, who have asked not to be named, realised the gas supply hadn’t been switched back on so the householder went to the LPG tank in the garden and reset the valve to restore the supply. A short while later the couple smelled gas and went to investigate. When the householder was trying to find the source of the leak it ignited.

The explosion at the Moortown Road property was so severe it blew out nearly all the ground floor windows and two walls of the property had to be supported to prevent them from collapsing.

The male occupant suffered severe burns to his hands, forearm and scalp and had to have a skin graft on his hands from which he is still recovering. His wife suffered serious burns to her lower legs and feet.

They had to live in a caravan for a year while the house was repaired.

A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation into the incident found Mr Hickling had never been registered with Gas Safe and was not qualified or competent to carry out the work. It is believed he damaged one of the pipes while excavating part of the floor around the pipe, puncturing a hole in it.

Daniel George Hickling, 39, of Main Street, Howsham, Lincolnshire, admitted breaching Regulations 3(1), 3(3) and 5(3) of the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998. Today (24 May) at Lincoln Crown Court today he was given an 11-month prison sentence suspended for two years and ordered to carry out 300 hours of unpaid work and pay costs of £2,000.

Speaking after the hearing HSE inspector David Butter said:

“Anybody who carries out work on gas pipes or appliances without being on the Gas Safe Register is breaking the law. Daniel Hickling endangered the lives of this couple as soon as he began work. They are extremely lucky to have survived.

“It is essential that homeowners and businesses check gas installers are registered with Gas Safe before having work carried out to ensure the job is completed to the required safe standard.

Russell Kramer, Chief Executive of Gas Safe Register, added:

“Our message is a simple one: Only use a suitably qualified Gas Safe registered engineer to fit, fix or service your gas appliances or to do any gas work.

“Every Gas Safe registered engineer has an ID card which proves they are who they say they are. On the back of the card there is information about the types of gas work they are qualified to undertake.

“You can find an engineer, or check the qualifications of one by link to external website or calling 0800 408 5500.”