Social landlords warned over risks posed by solid fuel burners
Warning issued over solid fuel burners after death of tenant
Social landlords are being urged not to neglect the maintenance of solid fuel burners after a housing association tenant died from carbon monoxide poisoning.
Gentoo was fined £40,000 and ordered to pay a further £25,000 in costs after the death of one of its tenants, George Rutherford. Eighty-year-old
Mr Rutherford, of Penshaw, Sunderland, died in June 2007 after the flue of his solid fuel heater became blocked.
Gentoo was prosecuted for failing to have proper procedure in place for the maintenance of a solid fuel appliance.
At Newcastle Crown Court last Friday, the 30,000-home landlord pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 5 (1) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.
Bruno Porter, HM Inspector of Health and Safety, said: ‘We would like the social housing industry to be more aware of the risks and to realise that while there is good practice out there, there are also areas where landlords need to do more. ‘
Judge Eder accepted it could not be said Mr Rutherford died as a result of Gentoo’s breach, but he said there was, at the very least, a ‘not insignificant risk of death’ as a result of the breach.
Solid fuel burners are more common in former mining areas where pensioners are eligible for free coal.
Angela Lockwood, chief executive of Stockton-on-Tees-based, 4,000-home North Star Housing Group, which has a number of solid fuel burners in its homes, said: ‘I think because gas servicing has such a high profile the sector’s attitude could become more relaxed around solid fuel. There’s been huge focus on gas, which is brilliant as it’s improved safety, but we all need to be alert and aware of other types of heating that need to be monitored.’
Bob Taylor, chief executive of Liverpool-based, 13,000-home Knowsley Housing Trust, which has two properties with solid fuel appliances, said: ‘Although there has been a big push on gas [safety] I feel solid fuel may be little known or understood.’
Inside Housing’s Safe as Houses campaign successfully lobbied for carbon monoxide detectors to be installed in all new homes, following the death of Elouise Littlewood, 26, in a flat she co-owned with Notting Hill Housing Trust in February 2008.
Andrew Taylor, deputy chief executive of Gentoo, said: ‘Excellent health and safety standards are paramount to Gentoo and we have therefore continued to monitor and improve our systems accordingly.’