Security Company Fined for Generator Death Failings

May 27, 2014

Security Company Fined for Generator Death Failings

A security company has been fined for breaches of health and safety law after a security guard died as a result of inhaling carbon monoxide fumes from a petrol generator.

Arthur Ebirim, 45, from south east London, was overcome by the killer gas in October 2011 whilst working a night shift guarding a disused nursing home that was awaiting demolition.

His employer, Anchor Services (GB) Limited, was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after an investigation identified serious flaws in the way the generator had been used.

Dartford Magistrates' Court heard that Mr Ebirim and fellow security guards had been assigned to security duty at the nursing home since early August 2011. Initially, they were stationed outside the building, but moved inside to a lobby area when the weather got colder.

The petrol generator, which belonged to one of the workers, was also placed in the lobby in order to provide a power source.

The usual night-time guard was unavailable and so Mr Ebirim was covering for him on the night he died. His wife became concerned when he failed to contact her after his shift and raised the alarm with his employer. Company representatives went to the site but were unable to gain access. The door was eventually broken down by the emergency services and Mr Ebirim was discovered slumped in a chair.

He was pronounced dead at the scene and a post mortem later 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 and tests revealed that it was capable of producing fatal levels of the gas. It was placed next to a door leading to a courtyard, and a sign on the door read 'When running the generator please keep this door open', but generators of this kind are designed for outdoor use and should never be used indoors.

According to a log book at the site, the generator was also prone to running out of fuel in the early hours of the morning, which posed an additional hazard as there was more chance of spilling fuel and starting a fire when refilling the tank in the dark.

The Court heard that Anchor Services had failed to assess the risks posed by the generator and had also failed to implement its agreed lone working procedures on the night of Mr Ebirim's death.

The company, which is now in liquidation, was found guilty of breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and fined £20,000, the maximum penalty available to magistrates, plus a further £35,656 in costs.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Melvyn Stancliffe said, "This was a tragic and completely avoidable death that has devastated Mr Ebirim's wife, family and friends. Their loss is made worse by the fact he was only covering the night shift as a one off, but sadly never returned home.

"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) Limited to keep Mr Ebirim safe, but they failed to do so."