Leaking gas cooker lands restaurant in court

A Chinese cooking range in China House Restaurant, Preston, has cost its former owner £4,779.87 in fines.

On 16 May 2013, health and safety inspectors found that the cooking equipment was leaking gas, as part of a multi-agency site visit including officers from Food Safety, Housing Standards and Lancashire Fire and Rescue.

The agencies served the then-owner, Wen Qaing Cai, prohibition notices to prevent any gas equipment being used until it had been made safe. Inspectors were also concerned as the flames were higher than expected and burning yellow (indicating that the gas equipment may have been powered by liquid propane gas cylinders).

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Further inspection of the staff living quarters found a hot water heater, the front of which had been removed. Without the cover, the boiler was not operating efficiently and there was incomplete combustion, leading to the production of carbon monoxide.

When health and safety inspectors finally gained entry to the restaurant’s cellar they found two LPG gas cylinders attached to the main gas supply by a dishwasher hose and push fittings, only suitable for water pipes. Numerous gas leaks were detected from the installation. The gas cylinders were immediately made safe and seized by officers.

In his report the area fire safety manager, Brad Walker, indicated that if a fire had occurred in this property the impact on the emergency services and council resources would have been considerable. Lancashire Fire and Rescue would have had to evacuate hundreds of homes and businesses, resulting in huge cost implications.

The premises were inspected again on 22 May 2013 by a regional investigations officer for the Gas Safety Register, whose report details nine occurrences that were classified as ‘immediately dangerous’ and four ‘at risk’. Cai never provided the full details of the gas fitter that he alleged fitted the gas bottle in the cellar.

The case came to court on 15 May 2015, with Cai pleading guilty to four offences under health and safety legislation. He was sentenced to four concurrent terms of 6 months in prison, which were suspended for 12 months and ordered to complete 200 hours of unpaid work, as well as paying the costs, which broke down as a £2,000 fine, £80 victim surcharge and £2,699.87 costs.

Senior environmental health officer at Preston City Council, Jonathan Cruickshank, said: “Due to timely interventions with our partner organisations, fortunately no-one was injured. If the illegal gas works had not been found it is likely that the consequences could have been a fire or explosion that could have seriously injured or killed staff and members of the public.

“Anyone working on gas installations and appliances must be a member of the Gas Safe Register and prove they are competent to work on the gas appliances concerned. All gas engineers can be checked on Gas Safe Register website.

“It is vital that gas-fired catering equipment is properly checked and maintained as gas leaks can go undetected in commercial kitchens due to food odours and the use of the extractor fan whilst cooking.”

 

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