A chimney sweep has been fined £5,000 and ordered to pay £2,500 in costs after his failure to remove a bird's nest from a chimney flue led to the death of a Maesteg pensioner.
Phillip Jones, of Porthcawl, was sentenced at Cardiff Crown Court following a prosecution by the Health and Safety Executive.
The court was told that 73-year-old retired miner Derwyn Rees who lived in Llangynwyd, Maesteg, had experienced problems keeping his solid fuel fire alight.
Mr Jones, who has been a sweep for 25 years, was asked to sweep the chimney and carried out the work in September 2008.
The next day – Mr Rees’ birthday - his neighbours noticed his curtains were still drawn and found him dead in his bed. Following a police-led investigation an inquest in October 2010 revealed he died of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Further investigations by HSE and a solid fuel specialist revealed an extensive bird’s nest inside the chimney.
They found that Mr Jones had encountered a blockage of the chimney while sweeping but did not check to see if his brush cleared the chimney pot which would indicate the blockage had been cleared.
In addition, he failed to carry out a proper smoke test after completing the job, give advice to Mr Rees on ventilating the property or give any verbal or written warning.
Mr Rees niece, Janet Jones, said:
“Derwyn’s death was an avoidable tragedy and has had a huge impact on the family. We hope this case sends a clear message to sweeps so that this sort of incident does not happen again and other people are not put at risk."
There are calls for the Welsh Government to "take lead" when it comes to ensuring homes are fitted with carbon monoxide detectors. Baroness Ilora Finlay says it's a "very simple" piece of legislation which could make a big difference.
The Welsh Government says at present there are no plans to make carbon monoxide alarms compulsory in new homes.
A government report calling for carbon monoxide detectors to be fitted in all homes will be put forward today.
At the moment it is mandatory for all new-build homes to be fitted with a carbon monoxide detector, but the Department of Communities and Local Government Select Committee is recommending that alarms are placed in all existing homes too.
The regulator for gas engineers, Gas Safe Register, is welcoming the report and urging people to be aware of cowboy gas fitters who do not have the skills or qualifications to carry the job out properly.
GSR estimates that in the UK about a quarter of a million illegal gas jobs are carried out every year by people who aren't registered. It also says that about half of homes in Wales do not have an alarm fitted, putting many lives at risk.