Domestic gas engineer sentenced to 90 hours community payback after carrying out work on commercial catering premises not competent to do
James Richard Harvey Skinner, 43, from Portlethen, Aberdeenshire, was employed by a gas company but, unknown to them, he did private gas fitting work in commercial takeaways and restaurants as an unregistered gas engineer. He undertook gas safety inspection and installation work at Indian takeaways in Stonehaven and Portlethen in 2010.
Aberdeen Sheriff Court heard that Mr Skinner issued Gas Safety records on the wrong forms using a Gas Safe registration number that he fraudulently claimed was his own, which turned out to belong to a former employer. His activities were investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after complaints from Gas Safe Register and Aberdeenshire Council.
A Gas Safe engineer visited two takeaways and found a number of safety issues that a gas engineer with catering competence should have identified including an open-ended gas pipe that was left uncapped. HSE said this could have caused a significant buildup of gas and a subsequent explosion, had the isolation valve been turned by mistake and the gas ignited. An immediate Prohibition Notice was issued, halting use of the relevant gas appliances until they were made safe. The court heard that although Mr Skinner did not necessarily create the risks in the premises, he failed to ensure that they were identified and remedied.
A similar investigation at another takeaway found incorrect fitting of a tandoor oven and no ‘interlocking’ of the extraction system, meaning gas could have been turned on without the extractor operating, which could have led to a buildup of carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide levels, putting workers at risk of poisoning. Once again an immediate Prohibition Notice was served on the premises.
The court was told that when Mr Skinner was interviewed, he initially suggested that he had been impersonated, though he later accepted he had undertaken work at the premises.
Skinner was sentenced to a 90 hour community payback order, a direct alternative to a custodial sentence, after pleading guilty to four breaches of the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 and also to a breach of Section 3(2) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
“In carrying out this commercial work, while not registered and competent to do so, Mr Skinner put those working in these premises, those living and working nearby and customers visiting them at risk,” stated John Radcliffe, HSE Inspector. “By knowingly using the registration number of another business, Mr Skinner compounded the severity of his actions by giving his clients a sense of security and safety that was entirely false.”