Builder Prosecuted Over Unsafe Chimney Work

Botched Chimney Repair Job Causes Gas Leak


Dave Grimshaw, Press Officer | 0114 274 4397

A builder has been prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) over dangerous work carried out on a chimney at a home in Luton.

Roofing contractor John Stanley had been hired to resolve a water leak on the stack at a home in the Bedfordshire town in August 2011. However, his team's work ended up blocking the chimney, meaning potentially deadly fumes that should have escaped ended up leaking into the loft of the house.

An HSE investigation found the workers had failed to check the flue for the gas fire was in good working order. Having dismantled the original double stack and replaced it with a single one, it transpired the vent that had been blocked was the one that led from the fire that was still in use in the back room, not the disused fireplace in the front living room.

This problem could have been detected by a simple smoke test. Instead, the fault went undiscovered for a year, during which time there may have been a dangerous build-up of toxic fumes.

Mr Stanley, who was trading as King Roofing and Durable Plastics, pleaded guilty at Luton Magistrates' Court to a breach of Section 3(2) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. He was given a four-month prison sentence suspended for two years and ordered to pay the residents of the affected home £500 in compensation.

Commenting after the hearing, HSE inspector Robert Meardon commented: "John Stanley’s sub-standard work created an ongoing breach and a prolonged risk to the safety of a vulnerable and elderly couple. It cost them a huge amount of unnecessary anxiety and a considerable amount of money to rectify - on top of their savings they had used to pay Mr Stanley for the work."

He noted that the work carried out by the builder should only be undertaken by a qualified person on the Gas Safe register, something Mr Stanley was not listed with.

Gas Safe-registered engineers all carry an ID card to prove this and householders can check it before work is carried out on any such appliance.

Expert Opinion
Using qualified professionals to conduct such specialised work is vital to avoid cases like this, where an elderly couple was put at risk of inhaling toxic fumes.

"This incident, where a significant error was not discovered for over a year, demonstrates the potential physical damage that can be suffered by members of the public when the correct safety procedures and checks are not carried out.

“In this case, the prolonged risk to the safety of an elderly couple is worrying. It is important to ensure they are given the best possible support to help them recover from this incident, which could have easily been avoided.”
Stephen Nye, Partner