An incompetent gas-fitter put people’s lives at risk by continuing to carry out work at houses in Coventry and Bedworth despite being subject to a notice banning him from doing so.
An inspection at one address led to Harcharan Sembi’s work there being classed as ‘immediately dangerous’ and the gas supply being cut off – only for him to then reinstate it.
Sembi (73) of William Grubb Close, Ernesford Grange, Coventry, pleaded guilty at Warwick Crown Court to contravening gas safety regulations and contravening a prohibition notice.
He was sentenced to 14 months in prison suspended for two years and was ordered to do 40 hours of unpaid work and to pay £1,000 towards the Health and Safety Executive’s costs.
Prosecuting on behalf of the HSE, Tim Pole said the case involved gas work carried out by Sembi, who ran his own business, H&J Builders, at addresses in Coventry and Bedworth.
Part of his business involved the installation of boilers and central heating systems, and Sembi had been registered as a gas engineer under the old Corgi registration system.
“But it hasn’t always been plain sailing, because his record is littered with complaints, and there have been several periods when he’s been suspended by Corgi or the Gas Safety register, as it now is, mainly over concerns about his competence and failure to rectify defects.”
In March 2016 his registration was suspended, and although that was lifted in June, his works was monitored, and in August he was told he had failed to show improved competence.
He was removed from the register and informed in writing that he could not carry out any gas work until a return to the register was approved, which he was told would require him gaining an NVQ in gas maintenance.
However, he carried out work at a house in Ansty Road, Coventry, which was completed in December and involved converting a garage into living accommodation and installing a new gas boiler and pipework.
But on January 27 last year a gas leak was reported, and engineers who attended discovered faulty piping, where a section of it was loose and a joint had failed.
“The inspector formed the opinion that if the defendant continued there was a risk of serious personal injury, so he quite properly served the defendant with a prohibition notice.”
As a result of what he was told, the householder made a complaint to Gas Safe about the work – and Gas Safe inspector Nick Deakin considered the leaks posed an immediate danger to life or property, and disconnected the gas supply.
On March 10 Mr Deakin went back following a report that Sembi had returned and carried out repairs – and he found the gas supply had been reinstated, but gas was still leaking from the same two places.
It was also discovered that in January Sembi had attended an address in Poplar Avenue, Bedworth, where he had carried out a Gas Safe inspection a appliances for the property’s landlord – and issued a certificate although not authorised to do so.
Mr Pole pointed out there was ‘a history of complaints’ over Sembi’s work in the past, with subsequent inspections finding it not to current standards, at risk or immediately dangerous.
He added: “Carbon monoxide poisoning accounts for about 40 deaths a year, and there was an obvious risk of explosion. Given the severity of the defects, the risk was high.”
Jonathan Veasey-Pugh, defending, said Sembi says he had fitted the boiler at the house in Ansty Road before the prohibition notice, but accepted other work there and at Poplar Avenue had been carried out after that.
Judge Anthony Potter told Sembi: “You are a man who on a number of occasions has come to the attention of the authorities for your rather dilettante attitude towards gas installation.
“You don’t have the competence to carry out what is extremely important work which, if not carried out properly, puts at risk the safety at those on whose premises you work.”
Of the fact that a second inspection at Ansty Road showed the same faults, he remarked: “If anything should emphasise to you that you are incompetent and a risk to others, it should be that.
“One doesn’t have to look very hard at newspapers to see reports of gas leaks and explosions, and that’s why your offences are so serious.”