Firm fined £25,000 after chef hurt in explosion at pub

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A pub company has been fined £25,000 for safety breaches after a chef was hurt when a gas oven exploded in a horrific incident.

The chef was thrown across the kitchen when the explosion took place at The Three Crowns pub in Wisborough Green on November 2 last year.

The chef suffered burns to his face, hands and arms and his clothes were singed.

An investigation by Chichester District Council’s Environmental Health Officers later found that the propane gas oven had not been serviced properly for over five years.

And Guildford Magistrates Court heard last week that there were numerous issues with the oven and that another chef had been hurt on an earlier occasion.

Chichester Council said that a contractor used to repair the oven was not an appropriately registered engineer as required by Gas Safety Regulations.

And, they said, the oven had no flame failure device as required by Gas Safety Regulations - which meant that gas could continue flowing when not alight, causing a build-up.

“The top ring of the oven couldn’t be turned off on the appliance itself so the staff had to cut the gas supply using the main kitchen gas tap,” said a spokesman.

“The remote ignition system was not working which meant that staff had to light the oven by placing a lighted taper inside the oven.

“It had a faulty temperature control on one side which meant that once alight, it was always on full.”

The investigation found that the company - Sussex Pub Management Ltd - had failed to act after staff raised concerns about the condition of the oven.

In 2012 a safety consultant employed by the company issued a written report which stated that the gas cooker should be inspected. The report was never followed up and no inspection took place.

The court also heard that in 2013 a different chef suffered burns when trying to light the same oven in similar circumstances. The council did not know about this previous accident because it was not reported. Regulations only require accidents to be reported if a member of staff is off work or unable to carry out their normal duties for more than seven days.

The company pleaded guilty to an offence under the Health and Safety at Work Act. As well as the £25,000 fine, the company was also ordered to pay costs of £6,289.50 and £300 in compensation to the victim.

District Judge William Ashworth said the company had a high level of culpability.

Cabinet Member for Housing and Environment Services, Councillor Carol Purnell said later: “This was a shocking breach of work health and safety law and several people could have died. Sadly, this was a completely preventable accident if the company had acted early to ensure the gas oven was safe to use.

“It ignored staff concerns and those of a safety expert and two people were injured. Health and safety laws are there to protect employees and the company failed in its legal duties.

“I hope this case sends a strong message to all employers, that this council will not tolerate neglect of employee safety and will prosecute where appropriate. Every year employers should ensure gas appliances are serviced by a Gas Safe Registered engineer.”