Learn important lessons from a tragic death from carbon monoxide poisoning

Robert Schenker, age 31, died of carbon monoxide poisoning after shoddy building work carried out on his chimney.

The builder, who had been hired by Mr Schenker to repair his chimney stack, was convicted of manslaughter and breaching health and safety laws.  Whilst undertaking a routine task he allowed debris and fresh mortar to fall down the flue leading to the kitchen boiler.  The mixture formed a solid blockage in the chimney preventing the fatal carbon monoxide fumes, produced by a gas boiler connected to it, from escaping upwards safely.  Although the boiler was 30 years old, it had been functioning perfectly well.  However, as it exhausted straight into the chimney so when the chimney flue became blocked, the carbon monoxide had nowhere to go but back into the house.

Shortly after the building work, Mr Schenker had told his neighbours that he had been feeling unwell for several days and was advised to phone the builder to check the flue was ok.  The builder reassured him that everything was in order.  Mr Schenker switched on his boiler and went to take a nap – from which he never awoke, killed by carbon monoxide poisoning.

HSE inspectors involved in this case were appalled by the poor workmanship and failure to carry out even the most basic checks to ensure the correct operation of the flue, which directly led to Mr Schenker’s death.

An inspector with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) stated that Robert Schenker’s tragic and wasteful death could and should have been avoided by the builder taking straightforward safety precautions.

Mr Schenker’s brother, Max, said: “I hope that Robert’s tragic death will raise awareness of the dangers of carbon monoxide. I would ask everyone to invest in a battery-powered carbon monoxide detector that can alert you to danger if you fall asleep.”

Take carbon monoxide safety seriously.

For detailed information about carbon monoxide – what causes problems, symptoms of poisoning,  and how to protect your family, view our safety information sheet.

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