Miriam Reidy helped inspire Oireachtas report recommending tighter fuel installation controls

THE MEMORY of a woman who died from carbon monoxide poisoning in a Cork hotel in 2011 was evoked yesterday at a gas safety launch in the Oireachtas yesterday.
It was announced a study should be urgently carried out to discover exactly how many illegally-installed boilers are currently being used.
The joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport and Communication is also recommending a study be made into the viability of carbon monoxide alarms being installed in all premises, whether private or public. And they want to see the regulatory structure that surrounds domestic fuel installations extended to the commercial sector. In making their recommendations, they frequently referenced Miriam Reidy, whose sister Siobhan Barrett has launched a campaign to have carbon monoxide (CO) alarms installed in hotels and other public places.

Miriam Reidy carbon monoxide poisoning
Cork Co Co Mayor John Paul O’Shea said recently: ‘Cork County Council does not have responsibility for certification of completed works to a building, it is the developer and their professional advisors who do so.’

The report (and see Oireachtas video link below. The meeting starts after about 8 minutes) states lives are being put at risk all over the country by gas boilers being installed without the necessary safety certification.
Committee Chair, John O’Mahony TD, said: ‘The Report was informed by a hearing which took place in February of this year on the risk to public health and safety posed by uncertified gas boiler installations.
‘The Committee heard that illegal contractors are certainly operating in Ireland, but there was no consensus amongst the stakeholders as to the extent of this problem.
‘In compiling this Report, the Committee was at all times cognisant of the tragic death of Ms Reidy in Kinsale a number of years ago, which resulted from carbon monoxide poisoning following a gas leak.
‘Preventing more fatalities is the Committee’s priority in producing this Report.
‘We are greatly concerned by assertions that many installers are operating outside of the law, thus placing lives at risk, as well as undermining those installers who adhere to the law.’

At the moment, there is only a legal requirement that new build private dwellings should have a (carbon monoxide (CO) alarm, but not in commercial premises like hotels. For years now, the Association Of Plumbing and Heating Contractors Ireland has been lobbying hard for tighter control on the installation industry,
Since then, a variety of figures have been publicised as to the estimated amount of cheap and potentially lethal boilers are in circulation.
The figures range from around 60,000 to over 100,000, as presented to the Oireachtas earlier this year.
While most of these are in private dwellings – which carry the greatest risk from CO poisoning – as many as 8,000 domestic appliances may have also been installed illegally in commercial premises.
There has been behind-the-scenes conflict between the Commission for Energy Regulation and the APHCI over just what is the most accurate figure.
Late last year, it emerged the CER, which is the prosecuting authority for illegal gas works, was unable to verify how many people have potentially lethal boilers installed.
This is because the body does not know how many boilers are sold in Ireland each year.
And the CER, which even asked the Central Statistics Office to help determine boiler sales figures, admitted it may not even be possible to get a number.
This is more than two years after the APHCI told the CER that the annual number of illegally installed boilers is ‘at least’ 10,000.
As a result, thousands of lives are at risk as a result of the illegally installed boilers put into homes around the country ‘on the cheap’. And given up to 8,000 illegally-installed boilers are in commercial premises, Mrs Barrett’s campaign is all the more timely. Although domestic CO alarms cost as little as €16, the costs for commercial premises could be many more times that.
Options include fire and CO alarms housed in one single unit and wired to a central monitoring station in a commercial business.
Although a stand alone monitor can cost around €50, the cost of wiring it to a central monitoring unit can – according to industry sources – ‘thousands’ and that depends on the size and type of the commercial premises.
Another option, which some hotels have already adopted, is for a CO alarm directly attached to the commercial boiler.
If the alarm detects CO, it doesn’t just alert the commercial premises owners, it also automatically shuts down the boiler.
However, there are those who believe one alarm attached to a boiler might not be enough, especially if that alarm malfunctions.
These would be those who favour even a simple domestic CO alarm being placed in hotel rooms, which is a comparatively cheaper option.
Mrs Barrett said last night: ‘If a small, domestic alarm had been in my sister Miriam’s hotel room, I am convinced she would still be alive today.
‘I appreciate there are many sides to the issue and that not all the experts would think a small domestic alarm is the right way to deal with the CO problem. but I personally think it is a no-brainer.
‘At the very least, a small, battery-operated CO alarm that costs as little as €16 would be an extra layer of added security against this lethal gas.’
She added: ‘I am so glad that the joint committee is tackling this issue and taking seriously concerns about the whole heating appliances issue.
‘My worry, however, is the amount of time it is taking for changes to be made.’

Carbon monoxide poisoning threat from illegally-installed appliances in up to 8,000 public premises

Miriam Reidy Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Gas Networks Ireland CO awareness ‘Tommy’ campaign.

THERE ARE an estimated 8,000 public premises in Ireland that have illegally-installed boiler and heating appliances.
The Association of Plumbing and Heating Contractors Ireland say premises include small hotels, bed and breakfasts, youth clubs and hairdressers.
Earlier this year, the APHCI told an Oireachtas committee that an estimated 18,000 illegal boilers have been fitted every year since 2009.
As it has always been reported that these are domestic fuel burning appliances have been installed for domestic purposes, it has always been assumed they have been installed in homes.
And as a result of concern about domestic installations – largely raised by APHCI – the registration and control of installers has been greatly tightened up.
But it has now emerged that thousands of these domestic appliances have also been installed in public premises.
Under the Commission for Energy Regulation’s RGii registration and regulatory scheme, anybody installing a domestic appliance has to be properly certified.
The revelation that dodgy domestic appliances have been installed in public premises comes as the sister of a woman who died of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning in a Cork hotel has launched a campaign to legislate for CO gas alarms to be fitted in public premises.

Miriam Reidy carbon monoxide poisoning
‘It is heart-breaking to think a young woman, our sister, died and there was no accountability on any level for her death.’

Siobhan Barrett launched the campaign yesterday out of frustration at seeing so little done in the wake of her sister Miriam Reidy’s death in January 2011.
She wants to do what she can to make sure nobody again dies in the same circumstances as her sister, who died from the deadly gas emitted from the hotel’s commercial heating system.
At present, CO alarms only have to be fitted into new build dwellings and commercial premises are not obliged to have them.

Sean Giffney carbon monoxide poisoning Miriam Reidy
Sean Giffney: ‘This is something that needs to be looked at as a matter of urgency.’

APHCI chairman Sean Giffney said last night: ‘It’s very difficult to know the illegal element that are installed in small premises.
‘There are no regulations covering the installation of boilers in commercial premises.
‘We know of commercial premises that have had installed domestic appliances, and as such they come under the control of the RGii certification scheme.
‘But given that we also know the total estimate of illegally installed fuel burning appliances, we believe a small proportion – between 6,000 and 8,000 – of these are used in public premises.
‘This is something that needs to be looked at as a matter of urgency.’
On Mrs Barrett’s campaign, he added: ‘We would support what she is trying to do.
‘We believe these alarms can be put in at a relatively low cost and it’s a commons sense measure we also believe should be legislated for.

Adrian Cummins carbon monoxide poisoning  Miriam Reidy
Adrian Cummins: ‘I can’t see our members objecting to putting in CO alarms if the cost and the science is right and stacks up.’

Last night, the Restaurants Association of Ireland was the first organisation to show backing for Mrs Barrett’s campaign.
CEO Adrian Cummins said: ‘You have to think about the logistics of something like this.
‘But I can’t see our members objecting to putting in CO alarms if the cost and the science is right and stacks up.
‘We would be delighted to support this initiative if it was brought in on a voluntary basis to begin with to see how it gets one.
‘People in the business community need to be educated about the need for such alarms and that some kind of voluntary code should be agreed to.
‘The government needs to look at this as well, as do the various other business bodies.’
He added: ‘A CO alarm is like a smoke alarm. It’s the same principle.
‘If the costs are at a minimum, I’d say restaurants would do it.’

Carbon Monoxide suffering
Bord Gas Networks ‘Tommy’ campaign: Stone dead in three minutes.

Owen Wilson, Head of Network Safety, Gas Networks Ireland, said: ‘Carbon Monoxide poisoning is completely preventable.
‘Correct installation, regular maintenance and servicing of fuel burning appliances by a registered technician and safe use of appliances are the best means of keeping your home and business safe.
‘For added protection, Gas Networks Ireland recommend the fitting of one or more audible carbon monoxide alarms.
‘Gas Network Ireland supports a range of initiatives to counteract the threat of carbon monoxide poisoning.
‘Information campaigns, regular servicing, competency schemes, enforcement of existing codes and new legislation can all play a role in reducing the incidence of carbon monoxide poisoning.’
Do you know anybody who has lost a loved one from carbon monoxide poisoning? Contact randomirish @ icloud . com

ends

More people like Miriam Reidy will die from carbon monoxide poisoning.

MORE PEOPLE will die before a simple measure to warn about carbon monoxide poisoning is legislated for, the sister of a woman who died in 2011 has predicted.

Siobhán Barrett’s sister Miriam Reidy died in Kinsale’s Trident Hotel, Co Cork, after the deadly gas leaked into her hotel room. Mrs Barrett is to launch a campaign to make it compulsory for all buildings – whether public or private – to have a carbon monoxide alarm installed. They cost as little as €16 and take just seconds to install.

Miriam Reidy carbon monoxide poisoning
Miriam Reidy

‘Since Miriam died, nothing has changed as far as I can see it,’ Mrs Barrett said last night. ‘In health and safety terms, her death was little more than an insignificant incident and just doesn’t seem to have made any difference to anything.

‘As much as I hate to say this because I wouldn’t wish it on anybody, I believe more people will die before the powers that be actually do something.’

Her comments come as a joint Oireachtas committee report on gas safety is due to be released in the Dail on Wednesday. It follows on from a warning in 2012 about the ‘ticking time bomb’ of illegally-installed gas boilers.

There are an estimated 100,000 illegally-installed gas appliances around the country. In addition, there are more than 2,300 plumbers operating around the country who are either not fully registered or even qualified to install gas boilers.

Wednesday’s Dail report is due to recommend that anyone who wants to buy a boiler will either have to be a fully registered gas installer or be able to prove that will be installed by one.

Miriam Reidy carbon monoxide poisoning
‘Miriam died through no fault of her own but the fact that there is no accountability it just heart-breaking.’

The issue of carbon monoxide alarms in public premises is not, however, among recommendations for action, yet. This is in part to do with the recent change in law which means all new build dwelling houses have to have them installed.

But it is the lack of any legal obligation on the part of owners of public premises to install carbon monoxide alarms that most concerns Siobhán Barrett.

Last night, Trident Hotel MD Hal McElroy said: ‘There is no legislation or requirement for hotels to have carbon monoxide alarms in hotel rooms.

‘Having given this consideration and taken advice, we fitted detectors on the new boiler system at source which is a more efficient way of ensuring that the CO or any variation in output will close down the boilers.

‘There can be no CO without combustion. This is in fact a safer and more efficient way of ensuring the safety of our guests and staff.

‘This device detects, at source, a presence of carbon monoxide or any irregularities in the system, and in the event of either, would immediately shut the boiler system down.’

Miriam died at the hotel on January 9, 2011, five days after the hotel’s boiler was converted from natural gas to liquid petroleum gas. Plumber Richard Davis, who converted the boiler, was subsequently tried for manslaughter and other charges and found not guilty. Mr Davis of Killanully, Ballygarvan, Co. Cork, had denied all charges.

‘There is a frustration in our hearts and in our heads about the fact that someone can die in a hotel room and nothing happens as a result. That adds to the hurt we all feel as a result of her sad loss’.

The Cork Circuit Criminal Court heard how Ms Reidy, 35, and her sister, Patricia Reidy Russell, were staying at the hotel while in Kinsale for their cousin Marie Reidy’s hen party.

They had returned to their room at around 1am. Neither of them had drunk very much. Miriam collapsed when she got up to go to the bathroom during the night and Patricia called a doctor after helping her ‘dazed’ sister into bed.

The women, who initially thought their drinks might have been spiked, were treated with injections for the vomiting bug. Later that day, when Marie – concerned she couldn’t contact them – went to their room, she discovered them and performed CPR on Miriam while a pal called 999. Paramedics fought to save her but she was already dead. Patricia, who was also violently ill, was rushed to hospital and her life spared.

The State had alleged Mr Davis failed to correctly convert the boiler to run on petroleum gas. The trial heard it was installed without a carbon monoxide safety test being carried out. It also emerged that shaft ducts in the hotel, which was built in 1965 and refurbished in 2004, had not been fire-sealed.

As a result, the boiler produced large amounts of carbon monoxide, which migrated through incompletely sealed service ducts and into hotel rooms, the trial heard. Other guests, including Limerick City FC player Ian Turner and his girlfriend, were also affected by the poisonous gas.

The defence argued commissioning of the boiler was not the only issue. They said the accumulation of gases due to ineffective flues and the passage of gases through incompletely sealed service ducts into Miriam and Patricia’s room were also factors.

‘Miriam will be forever in the hearts and thoughts of all those of us who work in the Trident Hotel.”

The jury found Mr Davis not guilty of unlawfully killing Miriam. It also found him not guilty in his capacity as a director of Davis Plumbing and Heating Contractors Ltd to two breaches of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 relating to the conversion of a gas boiler for use with liquid petroleum gas at the Trident Hotel on or about January 4, 2011.

Miriam Reidy carbon monoxide poisoning
‘It is heart-breaking to think a young woman, our sister, died and there was no accountability on any level for her death,’ says Siobhan Barrett.

His company, Davis Plumbing and Heating Contractors Ltd, was found not guilty of two similar breaches of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act on dates in January 2011.

‘We still carry an awful lot of hurt about the whole thing,’ Siobhán said last night. ‘The court case got us a hearing and the outcome was the outcome and as a family we have to respect that.

‘But it is heart-breaking to think a young woman, our sister, died and there was no accountability on any level for her death and that is one of the heart-breaking things about her death.

‘There is a frustration in our hearts and in our heads about the fact that someone can die in a hotel room and nothing happens as a result. That adds to the hurt we all feel as a result of her sad loss.

‘If Miriam’s death meant anything in the context of health and safety, then something would have been done to help make sure it doesn’t happen again.

‘We are trying to get on with our lives but we are always hoping that something will be done to change the way things are as far as carbon monoxide detectors are concerned.

‘Miriam died through no fault of her own but the fact that there is no accountability it just heart-breaking. It’s almost as if her death wasn’t enough of a wake-up call for someone to do something and pay attention.

‘I suppose the reality of the situation in this is that if it happened a second time, and another person’s daughter or sister died in a hotel again, maybe then they might realise the situation. Maybe they might finally say “Hello, we might need to change the law here.”

Miriam Reidy carbon monoxide poisoning
Cork Co Co Mayor John Paul O’Shea: ‘Cork County Council does not have responsibility for certification of completed works to a building, it is the developer and their professional advisors who do so.’

‘I wish it wasn’t the case but I feel that is the only way they will do something, because clearly Miriam’s death hasn’t been enough for them. And you know the pace of change in this country.’

Of her sister, she said: ‘Had Miriam been alive this year she would have celebrated her 40th birthday this May. Instead of attending a 40th birthday party, we visited her favourite beach in Kerry – Banna beach and released some balloons in her memory.

‘Miriam was a kind and gentle natured young woman, very close to her family and she had a good circle of friends. When she died she was just in the middle of plans to move into a new home with her boyfriend and move onto the next phase of life – get married and have her own family.

‘Instead that dream was stolen from her – she was taken from us and it now appears that her death was insignificant.’

She added: ‘Her death has left a huge void in our family and in all of our lives and that will be there forever. We live with the pain of her loss every day.

‘It would be of some small comfort to us to know that her needless death was not in vain and that legislative changes would have come in to effect as a result.’

Cork County Council was asked to explain what it has done since Miriam Reidy’s death to help prevent another death like hers but it declined to comment on any action it has taken.

Instead, spokesperson Tom O’Sullivan said: ‘The Health and Safety Authority investigated this incident in Kinsale and is the statutory body responsible for the issues raised in your questions. There is no issue for the CCC planning department.’

When Cork County Council mayor councillor John Paul O’Shea was then approached, he replied: ‘The HSA is the statutory body that inspects promises from a health and safety compliance perspective and has powers to enter any building at any time to do so and to order specific actions.

‘Also, Cork County Council does not have responsibility for certification of completed works to a building, it is the developer and their professional advisors who do so.’

Unlike Cork County Council, the Trident Hotel did at at least acknowledge the loss felt by the Reidy family.

MD Hal McElroy said: ‘Following the tragic death of Miriam Reidy, we expressed, and again wish to express our sincerest condolences to her family and loved ones, and we wish to state again how profoundly sorry we are for their loss. Miriam will be forever in the hearts and thoughts of all those of us who work in the Trident Hotel.’

A Department of the Environment spokesperson said: ‘From an analysis of the incidents that have occurred in the UK, the predominant area for carbon monoxide fatalities is in dwellings.

‘This analysis would appear to suggest that non-domestic buildings would not be considered high risk category having regard to the number of carbon monoxide incidences involved.’

Have you lost a loved one from carbon monoxide poisoning in a public premises? Email randomirish @ icloud . com