Following the untimely death of 83 year old pensioner, Joyce Moore, who died from carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning just hours after the flue on her gas boiler was blocked with cavity wall insulation, installers of cavity wall, loft insulation and external cladding must make sure they have a thorough and proper understanding of gas safety.
This terrible case, which has seen insulation firm, HIS Energy recently prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), serves as a reminder to us all in the importance of considering gas safety in all aspects of building work.
Mrs Moore’s insulation was installed by HIS Energy on October 9, 2012. When one of the employees checked the boiler, he noticed a pile of insulation beads at the back of it and assumed they had come through a hole in the lining of the chimney. The worker phoned the firm’s main office, where he spoke to two managers to make them aware of the issue, but neither of them arranged for a gas engineer to visit the property that evening.
Although Mrs Moore’s son was advised not to use the boiler, the company failed to make him aware of the potentially fatal consequences of turning on the heating. HIS Energy also failed to make sure the boiler was switched off before its employees left the property, failed to leave a warning notice on the boiler or with the homeowner, and failed to alert National Grid or a gas engineer, despite this being standard industry guidance.
Just after 8pm on the same day that the insulation was installed, Mr Moore turned up the thermostat in the hall, causing the heating to come on. When he stood up from the sofa around two hours later, he felt dizzy and went to check on his mother. He found her slumped on her bed. A post mortem confirmed the cause of death was CO poisoning. Mrs Moore’s son and two paramedics were also hospitalised after tests found high levels of CO in their blood.
The HSE investigation found HIS Energy did not provide adequate guidance for its employees on what to do if a boiler flue became blocked. The job packs in the company van contained examples of warning notices, but there were no actual notices, which could be given to homeowners or stuck on boilers.
HIS Energy, which has since gone into voluntary liquidation, was found guilty of a single breach of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. The company was fined £500,000 and ordered to pay £24,968.44 in prosecution costs.
To assist insulation and external cladding installers in avoiding such tragic instances, we have launched a Gas Safety Awareness Course for Cavity Wall & Loft Insulation Installers and/or External Cladding Installers.
Recognised by the CIGA, the course will help learners understand the risks associated with gas and other fossil fuel appliances and has become increasingly relevant owing to take-up of insulation and cladding thanks to the Green Deal and ECO.