A subsidiary of UK housing contractor Willmott Dixon has been ordered to pay close to £1.5 million in fines and costs after residents were exposed to carbon monoxide (CO) fumes.
Aylesbury Crown Court heard how on 11 December 2014 at Hamilton House in Wolverton, a number of gas installations were found to be either dangerous or at risk following the report of a smell of gas by one of the residents.
When gas engineers arrived at the building, they realised the seriousness of the situation and reported the incident under RIDDOR (Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations).
An investigation by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) found that Willmott Partnership Homes Ltd built the flats several years before the incident and in 2014 some remedial was work needed to be carried out on an external wall. During the demolition and reconstruction of the wall, many live flues of gas boilers were removed damaged and blocked, exposing the residents to the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Willmott Partnership Homes LTD as the principal contractor had not ensured that an adequate system of work was in place to manage the risks associated with working around the live flues.
The company pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and has been fined £1.25 million and ordered to pay cost of £23,972.33.
HSE inspector Stephen Faulkner said: “Risks from gas installations, including those related to carbon monoxide need to be managed by all during refurbishment.”
“This incident could have been avoided if the company had implemented a safe isolation system for the live boilers.”
In a statement Willmott Dixon, said: “We are disappointed that on this particular occasion we fell short of our exceptionally high standards of health and safety, especially given that our record is among the very best in the industry.”
“We have extensively reviewed our practices and procedures to ensure this type of incident never happens again and since it took place in 2014, there has been no repetition in over 500 construction projects completed in the past four years.”
Jeremy Sirrell a partner at Palmers said: “This fine highlights the importance of implementing specific health and safety policies at your place of work.
“Wilmott Dixon were lucky that the issue was spotted early before the residents health was severely impacted”.
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