Gas fitter fined over job which left woman at risk

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AN unregistered gas fitter whose shoddy work left an elderly woman at risk of deadly carbon monoxide poisoning was yesterday ordered to pay more than £4,000 in fines and costs after a Health and Safety Executive prosecution.

Tom Scholfield, 28, left a gas fire in an “immediately dangerous” condition after installing it at the woman’s house, and a central heating system he had installed was also found to be defective.

The poor standard of his work was spotted by a gas safety engineer who was called out to the property, and after a full inspection it was also found that Scholfield was not a registered engineer.

Sheffield magistrates heard yesterday that Scholfield, of Warren Hill, Kimberworth Park, Rotherham, had left the gas fire without a seal to prevent carbon monoxide from entering the house.

He was fined a total of £3,300 and was ordered to pay £1,000 in costs after admitting two charges under the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998.

The court heard that the faulty gas fire was fitted in December 2010 but the defects were not spotted until the qualified gas safety engineer was called to the house the following February.

The incident was reported to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which found that Scholfield, who traded as Scholfield Plumbing and Heating, had Gas Safe registration, but it had expired in March 2010.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Mark Welsh said: “Illegal gas work is unfortunately a regular occurrence and the result can be carbon monoxide poisonings and explosions.

“Both can lead to the deaths of innocent people who put their trust in someone they believed was fully qualified and accredited as competent.

“Tom Scholfield should never have carried out this work. He left the gas fire in a dangerous state and put an elderly woman at risk. It was lucky the poor workmanship was identified before anything serious happened.

“Gas work should only be undertaken by someone qualified and competent to do so and that means registered Gas Safe engineers, who all carry ID cards.”

Latest HSE figures show that, on average, 20 people die each year from carbon monoxide poisoning caused by poorly installed, maintained or ventilated gas appliances and flues.

Inspectors said many more victims become seriously ill and, in some cases, prolonged exposure can cause paralysis and brain damage.