Staffordshire man prosecuted for illegal gas work

A Staffordshire man has been prosecuted for pretending to be Gas Safe registered, putting tenants at risk from dangerous gas work and for breaching a legal Notice which prohibited him from carrying out gas work.

Mark David Austin, of Riceyman Road, Newcastle-under-Lyme, who trades as APS, was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after issuing landlord’s gas safety records with a Gas Safe Register identification number, despite never having been on the register.

He carried out dangerous work at a house being prepared for tenancy in Kelvin Avenue, Stoke-on-Trent, where he installed a boiler and a gas hob on 30 July 2010, Cannock Magistrates’ Court heard.

The gas pipework to these appliances was too small and as a result the gas hob burners went out when the boiler was activated and the unlit gas came back on when the boiler was turned off, which could have caused an explosion.

The owner of the property alerted the Gas Safe Register after Mr Austin failed to remedy the problems.

HSE’s investigation into the incident also revealed Mr Austin had illegally issued 23 gas safety records for another landlord, including one for a house in Severn Drive, Newcastle-under-Lyme, on 18 January 2011.

Following an earlier Court hearing, HSE then learned of two further pieces of work, which included the installation of a boiler and the issuing of Landlord’s Gas Safety Records, which were carried out after a Notice prohibiting such work had been issued by HSE.

HSE inspector Janice Dale said after today’s sentencing hearing:

“Anybody who carries out work on boilers, hobs, ovens, fires or any other gas appliances without being on the Gas Safe Register is breaking the law.

“Mark Austin deceived three landlords, pretending to be Gas Safe registered by putting false details on the gas safety records he illegally issued. In addition he carried out potentially lethal work in one of their properties.

“Poorly maintained, faulty or badly installed gas work can cause explosions or carbon monoxide poisoning, which can be fatal and can also cause serious long-term health problems.

“Mark Austin showed complete disregard for the safety of people who could have been affected by his deception. Anyone who has had gas work done by him should get it checked by a Gas Safe Registered engineer.

“This is why it is essential that only people who are registered with Gas Safe and competent should carry out work on gas fittings.”

Paul Johnston, Chief Executive of Gas Safe Register, added:

“Gas and cowboys do not mix. With a quarter of a million illegal gas jobs carried out every year by people who don’t have the skills or the qualifications to work safely with gas, it’s vital that anyone having gas work carried out, including landlords, always makes sure the engineer they use is on the Gas Safe Register.

“If they have any doubts, they can check the engineer’s identification number by calling us on 0800 408 5500, or visiting the website link to external website.”

At earlier hearings, Mr Austin pleaded guilty to three breaches of Regulation 3(3), two of Regulation 3(7), one of Regulation 26(1) of the Gas Safety Installation and Use Regulations 1998, one breach of Section 33(1)(g) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and one breach of Section 3(2) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. He was given a 12 month prison sentence, suspended for 18 months, 200 hours worth of unpaid community service and ordered to pay £1,000 costs.

On average, 20 people each year die from carbon monoxide poisoning caused by poorly installed, maintained or ventilated gas appliances and flues. Many more people become seriously ill and in extreme cases, prolonged exposure to carbon monoxide can cause paralysis and brain damage.