A roofer has recently been sentenced after serious health and safety failings led to exposing a homeowner to carbon monoxide whilst also putting co-workers at risk from working at height.
I do not plan on publishing the name of the individual concerned as my priority is more about discovering if there is anything that can be learned from this incident rather than naming and shaming those involved. I will endeavour to lay out my thoughts on this case, however this blog is not going to be extensive by any means.
A welsh court heard that whilst the self-employed roofer was conducting work to remove a chimney, they put people at serious risk of harm or death. The HSE investigation found that no scaffolding or other fall protection was in place and that the gas supply to the property was not isolated before or during the work. Rubble also fell down the chimney damaging and blocking the flue.
I am presuming the roofer was trying to dismantle the chimney with just the use of roof ladders which would have been extremely dangerous. As they did not organise a gas safety check or isolate the gas supply this also brought its own set of dangers.
The roofer was found to be guilty of breaching two sets of legislation, the first being section 6 (3) of the Work at Height Regulations. The reasoning is fairly self explanatory when you read the legislation which is as follows:
Where work is carried out at height, every employer shall take suitable and sufficient measures to prevent, so far as is reasonably practicable, any person falling a distance liable to cause personal injury.The Work at Height Regulations 2005
When a contractor is demolishing a chimney, careful planning must be taken to ensure safe access is provided to the working area. I have provided an example of a well constructed scaffold below. The general public and workers must also be protected from falling materials by the use of a property constructed scaffold, complete with guard rails and toe boards. The job below was a re-roof but it shows a similar set up of how a contractor could safely dispose of materials via a waste chute into a closed skip.
The second piece of legislation which the roofer was found guilty under was regulation 8 (2) of Gas Safety (Installation & Use) 1998 which states that:
No person shall do anything which would affect a gas fitting or any flue or means of ventilation used in connection with the fitting in such a manner that the subsequent use of the fitting might constitute a danger to any person, except that this paragraph does not apply to an alteration to premises.The Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998
The roofer should have carried out a survey before commencing work to establish what gas appliances were in the property and if they were going to be affected by the works. A gas safety check should then have been conducted by a suitably qualified engineer with any defects being rectified before the work getting underway.
After this, the gas appliance should have been isolated, capped off and removed to a safe storage area. If this had happened, the homeowner would not have been exposed to carbon monoxide. As discussed in a previous blog, carbon monoxide can be very dangerous and has earned its name as being a silent killer.
The chimney could then have been removed at roof level and taken down to a safe working height within the attic space where it can be sealed off if an appliance was not to be refitted.
If an appliance was to be reinstated, a new twin wall flue should have been fitted from the chimney in attic to termination through roof ensuring flue pipe is secure and well supported. After the completion of new flue pipe, the appliance could then be reconnected to the gas supply and tested as per GSIUR 26/9.
The individual in this case was sentenced to 16 weeks in prison suspended for 12 months, 180 hours community work as well as being ordered to pay £1,000 in costs. This would have been an important lesson for the roofer to take on board and a stark reminder for those who are considering cutting corners on this type of work.
As this was a domestic client they might not have been fully aware of the dangers of not appointing a competent contractor. I would encourage anyone regardless of whether it is a private job or not to ensure you obtain from the contractor at the very least their insurance details, their professional membership and accreditation’s (like NFRC and CHAS) and a risk assessment and method statement for the job.
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