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Security company sentenced for generator death failings

A security company has been fined for safety failings after a lone working security guard was killed by carbon monoxide fumes from a petrol generator.

Arthur Ebirim, 45, from Peckham, south-east London, was overcome by the killer gas on 28 October 2011 as he kept a night-time watch over a disused nursing home in Taunton Vale, Gravesend, that was awaiting demolition.

His employer Anchor Services (GB), formerly of Tanfield Road, Croydon, but now in the hands of Sutton-based liquidators Turpin Baker Armstrong, was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after an investigation identified serious flaws with how the generator was used.

A post mortem confirmed carbon monoxide poisoning as the cause of death.

The HSE investigation established that the only source of carbon monoxide in the room was the petrol generator. Tests revealed it was capable of producing fatal levels.

The generator was placed next to a door leading to a courtyard, and a sign on the door stated: ‘When running the generator please keep this door open.’

Generators of this kind are designed for outdoor use and should never be used indoors.

HSE inspectors also found that it was prone to running out of fuel in the early hours of the morning, according to a log book at the site. Refilling in the dark posed an additional safety risk because there was a greater chance of spilling petrol and causing a fire.

The court was told that Anchor Services (GB) failed to assess the risks posed by the generator and also failed to implement its agreed lone working procedures on the night of Mr Ebirim’s death.

The company was found guilty in absentia of breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. It was fined £20,000, the maximum penalty available to Magistrates, and was ordered to pay a further £35,656 in costs.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Melvyn Stancliffe commented: “The bottom line here is that the generator should not have been used inside the building, even with the door open. Petrol generators must only be used in a well-ventilated area because they are known to emit carbon monoxide.

“The onus was on Anchor Services (GB) to keep Mr EIbirim safe, but they failed to do so.”

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