Full story: Daily Mail - 'Incompetent' plumber causes gas explosion

A 32-year old plumber is currently in course after he caused a gas explosion which resulted in a home being 'blown from its foundations' and leaving the couple inside with serious burns.

While converting the former kitchen of Martyn Moody and his wife Theresa's luxury home in the Lincolnshire Wolds into a dining room, plumber Daniel Hickling cut off and capped the protruding gas pipe, burying it under the floorboards. However during the work he punctured the pipe and failed to carry out a straightforward check to ensure there had been no damage to it.

Later the couple smelt gas and began searching their home. During this time Mr Moody flicked on a cigarette lighter and the flame ignited, causing a massive explosion with such force that the entire building moved an inch. Mr Moody, a retired construction and electrical tradesman spent two weeks in hospital undergoing skin grafts after suffering serious burns to his hands, arms and scalp. His wife suffered burns to her legs and feet nut was released from hospital after two days.

The home, which the couple had built for themselves in 1993, sustained so much damaged that it had to be almost completely rebuilt. It was a year before the couple were able to move back in. They were also left £100,000 out of pocket after being found to be underinsured on their contents insurance and thus had to cover some of the loss themselves.

Lincoln Crown Court were told by prosecutor James Puzey that Hickley was "incompetent to carry out this work and it was carried out incompetently. That led directly to an explosion which almost destroyed the property and caused serious injury to the householders." It was also revealed that he was not a registered Gas Safe engineer and failed to tell the couple this when he agreed to do the work. However he claims that he did not know he would be working on a gas pipe and as such never put himself forward as properly qualified.

Hickley has admitted to breaching the 1998 Gas Safety Regulations and performing work to an inappropriate standard. Recorder Helen Malcolm QC has adjourned the case to a future date when she will give her ruling on the case following these two days of evidence.

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Cases like this are a prime example of why having the right qualifications to do the job is vital. Simply having plumbing qualifications is not enough if you are potentially going to work with gas pipes, as not only are you breaking the law and could potentially face prosecution but you are also endangering the lives of your customers. If you train as a gas engineer, becoming Gas Safe Registered isn't just advised, it is essential proof that you are legally competent to work with gas pipes and gas appliances safely. If you are a plumber and would like to learn more about gas engineering, gaining the qualifications required to be eligable for Gas Safe registration, we at Access Training offer comprehensive gas courses to ensure you are fully trained. To find out more click the link or give us a call on 0800 345 7492.

Not everyone needs an extensive plumbing course to know the rights and wrongs of the trade, but with all the DIY products that are for sale in various outlets, there is good information available to prevent water contamination by misconnection of sanitary and waste water from dishwashers, washing machines and such. However, the majority of people don't ask for this advice so not to seem ignorant or feel embarrassed about not know how or what is the right way to do things.

With the economic climate the way it is, the vast majority of people also cannot afford a tradesman with the correct knowledge to do the work properly. There are the unscrupulous people who pretend to be a qualified tradesman, undercut a price just to get the work and don't really care about the consequences of their actions.

Then the poor misguided home owner gets the backlash from the relevant authorities when the source of the contamination is traced back to a particular home. It's very hard to educate people that asking for advice is not showing ignorance. It would only show their concern for doing it the correct way and the people who would give that free information would be only too happy to give them without making them feel humiliated or stupid.

But that's human nature, and people only employ a tradesman when they have that spare amount of money to get the job done. I'm sure the vast majority of people would like to think that any work done to the correct standards without causing problems as rivers and streams being polluted to the degree that is being reported by the water authorities, but unfortunately it always comes down to money

- Mark Lewis

Step 1: Turn off all the components electrically. This means the boiler, pump and any zone valves.

Step 2: Shut the pump valves situated above and below the pump. Most valves turn clockwise to close.

Step 3: Get a small bucket the open the screw on the end of the pump or one of the nuts holding the pump to the valve. If water keeps leaking out for more than a few minutes then the pump valves are not holding and you will need to follow steps 4 to 7. If not, proceed to step 8.

Step 4: Turn off the water supply. This could be at the main or in your loft.

Step 5: Identify any zone valves and set them to manually open (usually an arm or on the side of the valve body).

Step 6: Find the lowest drain point in the heating system and then, using a hose, drain the system of water.

Step 7: Repeat step 3.

Step 8: Once you have no water coming out, test the electrical connections and make sure they are dead. Remove the electrical connections making a note not live, neutral and earth.

Step 9: Unwind the nuts that connect the pump to the valves and remove the pump. Check that the old seals have come off the valves - most new pumps are supplied with new seals.

Step 10: If you have drained the system completely of water because the pump valves won't hold, replace those valves.

Step 11: Fit the new pump, making sure than the pump seals supplied are in place and that the connecting valves are tight.

Step 12: Open the pump valves. Shut the drain point and re-fill the system.

Step 13: Test for leaks. If there are any leaks you may need to tighten up one of the joints or use some jointing paste.

Step 14: If you have no leaks, drain the system again and re-fill with a suitable inhibitor (Sentinel x100 or Fernox).

Step 15: Only now do you reattach the electrical connections in the right place and fit the cover back on the pump. Turn on the electrics and run a test operation of the new pump.

Tip: Sometimes after draining down a heating system you can get air locks. Even if the pump is running fine you might not get a full flow to all radiators. The best thing to do in this situation is to turn the pump on and off. This moves the water and air suddenly. You should be able to hear air gurgle its way around and eventually to the air vents.

- Mark Lewis

 

We hope that this short guide has helped you in being able to carry out this task quickly and effectively. However the best way to find out more about plumbing is to take one of Access Training's intensive plumbing courses. These are available to both those looking to improve their DIY skills, and those wanting a change of career, gain valuable qualifications and become a plumber. For more information call us today on 0800 345 7492.

Asking this raises a number of other questions. The plumber may be capable of connecting cables to the shower but does he know how to check that the existing cable can take the load current of the new shower? Does he know how to carry out all the required electrical tests that are required when installing new electrical equipment? Does he have access to the required test equipment to allow him to perform the tests (this equipment is expensives - in the region of £600+, and usually only carried by qualified electricians)? If he has access, is it the right equipment? Is it manufactured to the revelent BS or EN standards? Has it been well maintained and regularly calibrated? Does he have and can correctly fill out the correct electrical test certificate for the job? Has he informed you that you will need to notify the local building authority control (any electrical installation work that has been carried out in a room containing a bath or shower has to be pre-notified as a requirement of Part P). Oh yes I nearly forgot - there is also a charge payable to the Building Control Authority to notify works under Part P!

Are you starting to wonder if the plumber is the man for the job? If you have any doubt whatsoever, no matter how small - get a "proper" electrician to do the work. One who has undergone training and experience in doing the work. Engaging an electrician who is a member of a recognised 'Competent Person Scheme' will save you the cost and hassle of dealing with the Building Control Authority.

Have you made your mind up yet?

- Mark Jenkins

 

Alternatively, would you like to have a go at this yourself? Considering a career change to become an electrician? Access Training offer a number of bespoke electrician courses to people of all ages and backgrounds, from professional qualifications to DIY courses. With qualifications including general installation, Part P training, PAT Testing and more, we're certain we have the right electrical course for you. For more information call us on 0800 345 7492.

When hiring a plumber or any other tradesperson, there are a number of things you should find out beforehand. Questions such as what kind of plumbing training they've had, their qualifications and previous experience are crucial when it comes to getting the best value for money.

The first and foremost way to find a reputable tradesman is to ask friends, family or other tradespeople for a recommendation. Others who can recommend a tradesperson have had the experience of what he/she is capable of, how much they charge for certain works, how reliable they are and most importantly how good their work is.

Failing this, there are schemes where tradespeople register with known as competent person schemes. Any tradesperson who has joined such a scheme is prepared to have his work regularly checked by such people as Building Control officers from the local council, water authorities and competent person scheme inspectors. These control the quality of the tradesperson's work, and can be trusted.

Unfortunately there is nothing to stop cowboy tradespeople setting up and trading. Only when they have ripped off a number of people who have subsequently complained to Trading Standards will there be an investigation into the quality of work and the prices they charge.

But if you have employed such a tradesperson who has not done an acceptable level of work to your property, then you have the right to call them back regardless of the price you paid them. The attitude of "you didn't pay a lot so what do you expect" is not an excuse for poor quality of work. As a tradesperson who has been in this industry for over 30 years, the price you pay for a job should not reflect the quality, and any tradesperson with a good work ethic towards their customers will not overcharge and do the job to the standard required. Their customers will feel they have had value for money and won't have to call the tradesperson back for a fault on their work.

- Mark Lewis

 

Are you looking to change careers and become a professionally qualified plumber yourself? Access Training Wales offer a number of accredited plumbing courses, not just for those looking to start a new career but also for DIY enthusiasts wanting to earn some new skills. For more information on what courses are available to you give us a call on 0800 345 7492.

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