The former bosses of an Indian restaurant have received suspended prison sentences and their company was fined £175,000 after a chef suffered serious burns from a dangerous tandoor oven.
Sandwell Council, prosecuting, told Wolverhampton Crown Court that the chef at the Alachi International Restaurant in Highgate Street, Cradley Heath, near Dudley, was burned when the restaurant’s oven exploded in his face. Gas had been escaping from the oven and it had no ignition switch. The chef’s clothing caught fire and he sustained burns to his face, ears, hands and arms, which were treated in hospital.
When gas engineers acting for the council’s environmental health team checked the tandoor, they found it had been being turned on and off using a set of pliers, and had to be lit using a flaming piece of paper. The pipework was held together by foam and sticky tape and gas was escaping – the gas ignited when the chef attempted to light it in November 2017, causing serious burns.
The court heard that former director Khalid Hussain, of Somerville Road, Birmingham, and Mahbubar Rahman Chowdhury, of Talfourd Street, Birmingham, had failed to report the incident. Subsequent safety checks found that the flame failure devices on other gas appliances in the restaurant’s kitchen were either missing or had been bypassed.
The ignition buttons on a large cooker were held in place with string and metal wire, and a smaller cooker had twisted gas pipework and its safety chains were missing. Burners were missing from the large cooker, which was classified as Immediately Dangerous, as was the tandoor.
Mr Hussain, Mr Chowdhury and the Alachi Restaurant Limited pleaded guilty to 10 breaches of the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 as amended and the Health and Safety at Work etc Regulations 1974, and the judge told them that they had shown ‘flagrant disregard’ for the law.
Alachi Restaurant Limited was fined £175,000 and ordered to pay costs of £4,300. Mr Hussain and Mr Chowdhury were each sentenced to 38 months in prison, to run concurrently for 10 months, suspended for two years. They were ordered to pay costs of £4,000 each, and to carry out 150 hours of unpaid work. They were also disqualified from acting as director or in management for five years.
Sandwell Council’s cabinet member for Living Healthy Lives, Councillor Farut Shaeen, said: “Our checks found very dangerous conditions in the kitchen of this restaurant that resulted in one of the chefs being seriously injured. It’s only by luck that he wasn’t killed, and that other people were not injured.
“We hope this prosecution and the level of fine handed out by the court sends the message to other restaurants that maintaining gas appliances safely is of paramount importance.”
The restaurant is now under new ownership.