Cambridge Crown Court heard how on 19th December 2014 a live flue was blocked because of a mistake over floor levels. Scaffolding was erected outside a 13-storey block of flats without marked lift levels and the external wall of the building had no markings to identify floor levels or flat numbers. Operatives from RJ Fitters were given a diagram marked with the redundant flues and were expected to find the redundant flues among live flues.
The problem was identified only when a CO monitor was activated and a homeowner and her son investigated. The damaged boiler was switched off before any serious ill-health could occur.
An investigation by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) into the incident found that Wates Construction Ltd and RJ Fitters Ltd had failed to manage the risk involved with the project. The investigation found that they could have marked the levels on the scaffold and the levels/flat numbers on the external wall of the building. A supervisor could have marked the redundant flue pipes to ensure the correct cowls were removed and flue pipes blocked up. The companies could have put a cage around the cowls to ensure they did not fall instead of blocking the redundant flue pipes.
Wates Construction Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. It was fined £640,000 and ordered to pay costs of £20,862.52.
RJ Fitters Ltd pleaded guilty breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. It was fined £30,000 and ordered to pay costs of £10,431.28.
HSE inspector Sandra Dias said after the hearing: “It is the responsibility of both the principal contractor and subcontractor to ensure that safe systems of work have been identified and adopted. When there is risk of death to members of the public, the safe systems should be well thought through and robust. The risks associated with blocking a live flue could result in carbon monoxide entering properties and potentially killing all occupants.”