Plumber given suspended jail sentence for house explosion

A plumber has received a suspended prison sentence after the illegal gas work he carried out at a house in Lincolnshire led to an explosion, which caused the occupants to suffer serious burns.

Daniel George Hickling, trading as DGH Plumbing and Heating, was hired to reduce the height of two redundant LPG gas pipes in an old kitchen, which was being converted into a living room at a house in Nettleton. After he left the property on 21 July 2011, the occupying couple, who do not want to be named, realised the gas supply hadn’t been switched back on.

The male occupant went to the LPG tank in the garden and reset the valve to restore the supply. A short while later, the couple smelled gas and went to investigate. As the man tried to find the source of the leak the gas ignited. He suffered severe burns to his hands, forearm and scalp and required a skin graft on his hands. His wife suffered serious burns to her lower legs and feet.

The force of the explosion blew out nearly all the ground-floor windows, and two walls of the property had to be supported subsequently to prevent them from collapsing. The couple had to live in a caravan for a year while the house was repaired.

The HSE investigated the incident and found no record of Hickling on the Gas Safe Register, meaning he was unqualified to carry out gas work. It is believed he damaged one of the pipes while excavating part of the floor around the pipe, puncturing a hole in it.

An HSE inspector said: “Anybody who carries out work on gas pipes or appliances without being on the Gas Safe Register is breaking the law. Daniel Hickling endangered the lives of this couple as soon as he began work. They are extremely lucky to have survived.

“It’s essential that homeowners and businesses check gas installers are registered with Gas Safe before having work carried out to ensure the job is completed to the required safe standard.”

Hickling appeared at Lincoln Crown Court on 24 May and pleaded guilty to breaching reg.3(1), reg.3(3) and reg.5(3) of the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998. He was given an 11-month prison sentence, suspended for two years, and ordered to carry out 300 hours of unpaid work and pay costs of £2000.

After the hearing, Gas Safe Register chief executive Russell Kramer said: “Our message is a simple one: only use a suitably qualified Gas Safe-registered engineer to fit, fix or service your gas appliances, or to do any gas work.

“Every Gas Safe-registered engineer has an ID card, which proves they are who they say they are. On the back of the card there is information about the types of gas work they are qualified to undertake.”