Suspended prison sentence after faulty gas service leaves tenant unconscious

A Suffolk gas engineer has been handed an 18 week suspended prison sentence after carbon monoxide fumes from an incorrectly serviced gas-fired heater left a tenant unconscious.

Greg Ranson, 27, a Gas Safe registered engineer from Ipswich, was prosecuted by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) following safety failings which led to the leak of the poisonous gas.

Ipswich Magistrates’ Court heard today (12 Aug) that Mr Ranson had been hired to service a gas-fired warm air heater at a ground-floor flat in Sproughton in April 2013 before William Tumilty, 59, moved in in May.

As the weather was mild, the heating system was not turned on until November 2013. However, once the heater was operating Mr Tumilty immediately fell ill, and did so again when the heating was used the next day.

On the third day, the heating came on automatically at 4.00pm and at about 7.00pm Mr Tumilty collapsed unconscious in the hallway. He regained consciousness at 7.45 am the next day. Hospital tests confirmed he had been poisoned by carbon monoxide.

The occupants of a maisonette directly above the flat – a young couple with a two year-old child – were also affected by the potentially lethal fumes and required hospital treatment.

HSE’s investigation established that the source of the carbon monoxide was the gas-fired heater. Examination revealed the heat exchanger assembly had been blocked by a fine dust which was preventing the harmful by-products of combustion escaping safely up the flue. The heat exchanger should have been inspected and cleaned during the service undertaken by Mr Ranson but did not appear to have been cleaned for several years.

Greg Ranson, trading as Ranson Plumbing and Heating Ltd, of Downing Close, Ipswich, was given an 18 weeks prison sentence, suspended for 18 months, and ordered to pay compensation totalling £1,500 to three victims, as well as costs of £813 after pleading guilty to a single breach of the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974.

After the case, HSE Inspector Anthony Brookes said: “Fortunately cases like this are rare but they illustrate the care and diligence required on the part of qualified gas engineers to ensure gas-fired appliances are safe to use.

“People can die as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning, and, by his negligence, Mr Ranson could have caused the death of Mr Tumilty and his neighbours.”

Further information about gas safety can be found online