Coroner calls for boiler safety law after death

Published:  29 July, 2011

A coroner has called on the government for legislation to minimise the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning after the death of a tenant was attributed to a boiler leak.

Coroner Roy Palmer wrote to the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills, and the Health & Safety Executive, after an inquest into the death of a tenant, Maria Ighodalo, following a carbon monoxide leak from the boiler in the flat below her home in London development.

Palmer said the circumstances that led to the fault not being spotted could arise again.

The condensing boiler, which had relevant gas safety certificates, is a common type installed in millions of homes.

Jurors at Ms Ighodalo's inquest last month reported that there was 'significant evidence' that a fault with the boiler was responsible for her death, rather than any installation or maintenance work. Ms Ighodalo died on 14 November 2007 at the development built in the same year.

Palmer acted because coroners' rules allow him to suggest action that could be taken to prevent similar deaths occurring again. Palmer stated in a letter that gas control valves on the boiler were pre-set in the factory with no requirement for further checks to be carried out on installation.

The jury had heard evidence from an expert witness that gas appliance regulations "pre-dated the introduction of condensing boilers" and that "many millions" of them have been installed over the past five or six years.

Palmer asked the Whitehall department and the HSE to consider if "present safeguards are adequate" and suggested the government should require checks to be carried out on installation.

"For example, could tamper-proof valves be used, or sensors installed that would detect faulty combustion and perhaps turn off the boiler if dangerous levels of carbon monoxide are produced?" he asked in the letter.

Subsequent to the tenant's death, the housing association that owns the flats installed carbon monoxide alarms.