Building contractor fined after exposing family to CO

Published:  03 September, 2013

A Glasgow-based building contractor which exposed a family to deadly carbon monoxide fumes has been fined.

Glasgow Sheriff Court was told on 2 September that the issue first came to light in June 2010, when the owner of a flat in Glenkirk Drive, Glasgow was concerned about her son, who was experiencing headaches.

Checks by a Gas Safe registered engineer revealed that the chimney had been removed from behind the gas fire in the living room. The fire was condemned and the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) launched an investigation.

The court heard that Morris and Spottiswood had tendered to Glasgow Housing Association to carry out renovation work on the block of flats, starting in September 2008. The project included the removal of redundant chimneys to reduce future maintenance costs. Morris and Spottiswood sub-contracted the work to remove the chimneys, but failed to provide sufficient direction and supervision.

The court was told that the flat was visited at various times in early 2009 by a Morris and Spottiswood site foreman, who incorrectly recorded that there was an electric fire in the property, rather than a gas fire which required the chimney for a flue. The function of the gas fire was further compromised by the debris that had fallen down the chimney during its demolition, as well as the chimney being capped. This combination of circumstances resulted in CO spilling back into the room.

Morris and Spottiswood of Helen Street, Glasgow was fined £60,000 after pleading guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 between 22 September 2008 and 20 March 2009.

HSE inspector Helen Diamond said: "This was, for the family, a potentially fatal combination of circumstances, but thankfully it appears they did not suffer a high degree of exposure.

"It was Morris and Spottiswood's decision to remove the chimney at this property, based on checks made by a site supervisor who had no specific trade.

"A young family was needlessly put at risk because the company fell considerably short in its duties as principal contractor. It failed to ensure a competent person was employed to determine whether properties had a gas or electric fire and then failed to provide sufficient information, instruction, training and supervision to the sub-contractor."