Blackburn Magistrates Court has fined a commercial landlord £1,500 after two employees in a showroom suffered carbon monoxide poisoning from a dangerous gas heater.
The two men experienced several months of headaches and nausea before being admitted to hospital for investigation. Tests showed that they had elevated levels of carbon monoxide in their blood. Given that the two employees worked together, investigations were carried out into their workplace and engineers identified the faulty gas heater which was causing the carbon monoxide leak.
Carbon monoxide is an odourless and colourless gas which is difficult to detect and is commonly known by the name ‘silent killer’. Poisoning usually occurs when heating systems are operating without suitable ventilation which results in the oxygen supply being used up and carbon monoxide being produced. When inhaled, carbon monoxide affects the ability of the blood to carry and circulate to the tissues. The longer an individual is exposed to carbon monoxide, the more long term damage can be caused.
The landlord was found guilty of a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 after he failed to ensure the gas heater was safe. He was fined £750 and ordered to pay £750 in costs.
Speaking after the hearing, Health and Safety Executive Inspector Stuart Kitchingman said: "The workers were fortunate that the carbon monoxide did not rise to a fatal level. Customers were also potentially put at risk when they visited the showroom….. Landlords need to make sure that the equipment they provide for their tenants is adequately maintained and safe to use.”
Penningtons’ personal injury team has dealt with a number of cases of carbon monoxide poisoning from faulty boilers and heating systems, usually against landlords or those who install/maintain the systems, and is able to advise on whether there is a basis for a claim. Philippa Luscombe, partner in the team, commented: “It is good to see that the HSE has taken a firm approach in this instance. Given the location of the heater, it appears lucky that more people weren’t affected. We have come across a number of landlords who do not maintain heating systems properly and the impact over time of carbon monoxide poisoning - particularly for children – can be severe. It is therefore important that any failings are properly investigated to highlight the importance of this safety issue.”