Pub chain fined £300,000 over landlord's death

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Pub chain fined £300,000 over landlord's death

8th October 2010

A major pub chain has been fined £300,000 after a Merseyside landlord died from carbon monoxide poisoning.

The landlord of the Aintree Hotel in Bootle was found dead some ten hours after he had switched on a faulty gas heater in his living room and fallen asleep.

Karl Tonks, a health and safety specialist at Fentons Solicitors LLP, said: "Faulty gas heaters and carbon monoxide poisoning are a real danger. This case serves to highlight the importance of regular gas safety inspections in the workplace."

A subsequent HSE (Health and Safety Executive) investigation discovered the living room chimney was completely blocked and may not have been serviced since 1979. With nowhere for the deadly gas to escape, it had gradually built up inside the room starving the victim's body of oxygen before rendering him unconscious.

The HSE found the legal workplace limit for carbon monoxide exposure would have been exceeded within five minutes of the faulty heater being switched on, reaching levels known to be fatal within an hour.

"Being both colourless and odourless, carbon monoxide is almost impossible to detect without proper monitoring equipment," said Karl, a partner with the firm. "The tragic ease in which this man met his death demonstrates how dangerous carbon monoxide exposure from faulty gas appliances can be."

Enterprise Inns Plc, the West Midlands-based company which has an annual turnover of £818 million and owns approximately 7,700 pubs across the UK, was fined after admitting breaching Section 3 (1) of the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974. Liverpool Crown Court heard the chain should have ensured gas safety inspections were carried out at 868 of its pubs at least once every 12 months, but only 394 had valid gas safety certificates.

It was further revealed the company had received a written HSE gas safety warning in 2001 after a fire at one of its properties in Birmingham had exposed a systematic failure to implement annual gas safety checks.

"It is wholly unacceptable that a man lost his life because a major pub chain failed to ensure regular gas safety checks were carried out at over 400 of its properties," said Karl. "Furthermore the fact that hundreds of lives were put at risk after an HSE warning specifically about gas safety went unheeded, makes this case even more alarming."

Gas Safe Register is the official gas safety registration scheme in the UK. Gas engineers must be Gas Safe registered to fit, fix and service gas appliances. Businesses, landlords and homeowners can verify an engineer is Gas Safe registered by visiting www.gassaferegister.co.uk.  

How can Fentons Solicitors help?
If you or a family member has suffered an injury as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning, you could be entitled to make a claim for compensation.

If you think that you have a case or require further information, contact Fentons on 0800 019 1297 or fill in the online claims questionnaire.

Source - BBC