Last updated: 08.12.11

Council fined for breach of health and safety after carbon monoxide leak

The local authority in Newcastle-under-Lyme has faced heavy fines for a dangerous carbon monoxide leak, emphasising the importance of thorough health and safety training that could be provided though e-learning.

The borough council was hit with charges of £20,000 and legal costs of £25,550 after it allegedly endangered people's health in the area through a faulty gas boiler that leaked carbon monoxide at a community centre. 

Fenton Magistrates' Court heard that the fire service found dangerously high levels of the gas escaping from the loft of Westlands Community Centre in Whitfield Avenue during a check and immediately evacuated the building.

Members of the community suspected a leak and phoned for immediate assistance to ensure everything was safe.

According to reports from the fire fighters at the scene, parts of the flue had been disconnected, resulting in a potentially lethal flow of poisonous gas.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) took the case to the court under breach of section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and Regulation 5 of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, which both state that precautions and vital safety measures should be taken regularly to maintain boiler functioning.

Giving comments after the hearing at Fenton Magistrates' Court, HSE inspector Lynne Boulton said: "Every year, about 20 people die from carbon monoxide poisoning, invariably due to gas appliances not being properly serviced and checked for safety. Many more become ill with long-term health problems."

She added that all properties should be regularly checked to ensure there are no leakages from gas appliances. Those working as a Gas Safe registered engineer may like to keep on top of new rules and regulations with e-learning sites, which can be accessed remotely and through tablets and smartphones while on a job.

"This incident could have had much more serious consequences, particularly as elderly people and children, who are more vulnerable to the effects of this dangerous gas, use the centre regularly," Ms Boulton added.

The case against Newcastle-under-Lyme's council came at the same time as one woman made the headlines in the Daily Mail about a faulty boiler that caused her death.

Katie Haines, a press officer at Oxford University, said that she suffered migraines thought to be from stress, but they turned out to be due to carbon monoxide leaking from the boiler in her home.

Symptoms to watch out for include headaches, anxiety and depression and nausea.