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Morris & Spottiswood fined £60k for carbon monoxide failings

Morris and Spottiswood has been fined £60,000 after a series of failings which left a family exposed to potentially deadly carbon monoxide fumes.

The firm, which had been hired by Glasgow Housing Association to removate the block of flats in Glenkirk Drive, Glasgow, in 2008, had failed to provide sufficient direction and supervision to the subcontractor it used.

The firm had been contracted to remove redundant chimneys. A foreman recorded that the fire in the flat was electric when in fact it was gas-powered and required a chimney for the flue.

The function of the fire was compromised by the removal and capping of the chimney and debris that had accumuated behind the fire.

As a result, carbon monoxide, which would have been produced on any occasion that the gas fire was used, would have spilled back into the living room, the Health and Safety Executive said.

High or prolonged exposure to the gas can be fatal.

The errors were uncovered when the pregnant owner of the home bought in a gas safe engineer to inspect the fire after becoming worried about the headaches that her 10-year-old son was having.

The HSE was notified after the debris and missing chimney were uncovered.

At Glasgow Sheriff Court yesterday, Morris and Spottiswood Ltd, of Helen Street, Glasgow, was fined £60,000 after pleading guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 between 22 September 2008 and 20 March 2009.

HSE inspector Helen Diamond said: “This was, for the family, a potentially fatal combination of circumstances. But thankfully it appears they did not suffer a high degree of exposure.

“It was Morris and Spottiswood’s decision to remove the chimney at this property, based on checks made by a site supervisor who had no specific trade.

“A young family was needlessly put at risk because the company fell considerably short in its duties as principal contractor.

“It failed to ensure a competent person was employed to determine whether properties had a gas or electric fire and then failed to provide sufficient information, instruction, training and supervision to the subcontractor.”

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