AN APPARENTLY straightforward re-roofing project on a domestic property resulted in a near miss with potentially fatal consequences for neighbours.
The work involved the contractor removing a chimney stack, during which debris was heard falling down the chimney’s flue by the occupiers of the neighbouring property. Despite this, the party chimney stack was completely removed and tiled over.
The occupier of the neighbouring property had not been warned about the works in advance. It meant, that if they had not been in the property at the time to hear debris fall down the chimney, they would have been unaware that the chimney’s flue could have been blocked.
The concerned neighbour called in a Gas Safe registered engineer who found that the flue serving a gas fire appliance was indeed blocked. The engineer judged it necessary to isolate and remove the gas appliance connected to the flue.
Near Miss for Neighbours
If the gas fire had been lit and fumes from it were not channelled away through the flue, the occupants could have been exposed to carbon monoxide poisoning with potentially fatal results.
Reported anonymously to the CROSS UK safety organisation, the writer commented that apparently simple home improvement work is far more complex than untrained personnel believe. They said education is needed about such projects.
Experts at CROSS said that the reporter was right to be concerned. Clients, designers and executers of works, however simple, are responsible and accountable for doing things properly, they say. They added: “If there had been casualties or fatalities from carbon monoxide poisoning, then ignorance would not be an excuse.”
Home owners are not exempt from responsibilities. They have a duty to ensure they engage competent people to design and carry out their work safely.
The safety experts warn contractors that work should not be undertaken on any part of a chimney serving a neighbouring property without agreement. More importantly, work should not start without first checking that the flues are not in use. Blocking a live flue would show gross incompetence and present a high risk to life.
NACE has warned roofing contractors in the past about chimney work. Without specialist training, roofers are not qualified (and therefore deemed competent) to work on chimneys or flues.
The CROSS report adds that the re-roofing work involving the chimney stack and flue damaged the neighbouring property. The experts highlight that the damage will need to be put right, by law.
The CROSS-safety experts says that loft conversions and re-roofs need to be passed by Building Control. Because of this, incompetent contractors and work should not occur. They point out that when chimney breasts are removed, structural support of the remaining masonry is required. This will also need building regulation consent.
The Party Wall etc Act 1996 should have meant that adjoining owners were given notice of their neighbours’ intentions. The Act lays down a framework of actions and timescales to help parties to agree on work that is desired or required.