A PLUMBER has been given a suspended prison sentence and ordered to do 240 hours of community work after carrying out illegal and unsafe gas work at two fried chicken shops in Southend.

Richard Smith, 56, exposed staff, customers, owners and their families to the risk of explosion and injury after leaving gas appliances in a condition classified as “At Risk”.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted Mr Smith for serious breaches of gas safety regulations after his sub-standard work was uncovered at Tasty Chicken, Westcliff, and The Chick Inn, Southend in June 2013.

Southend Magistrates’ Court heard on yesterday that Mr Smith visited both premises on May 2012 to carry out annual gas safety checks on commercial gas cookers and a gas boiler, despite not being Gas Safe registered or competent to carry out the work.

The HSE found that Mr Smith, who had never been trained to work on commercial catering equipment, had been using an expired Gas Safe Register card he had received while working for a former employer. HSE had warned him against making false claims with clients in 2011 but he ignored this warning.

After the case, HSE Inspector Sue Matthews said: “By failing to heed this warning, Mr Smith potentially endangered the lives of the public and the employees at Tasty Chicken and The Chick Inn. The Tasty Chicken owner’s family, who lived on the premises, were also put at risk.”

Smith, of Wren Road, Dagenham, Essex, was given a four month prison sentence, suspended for 12 months, and ordered to carry out 240 hours of community work. He was also ordered to pay costs of £892 after pleading guilty to six breaches of the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998.

Every Gas Safe registered engineer carries a Gas Safe ID card, which shows who they are and the type of gas appliances they are qualified to work on.