Arthur Ebirim, 45, from Peckham, was overcome by carbon monoxide 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) Limited was prosecuted on the 13 February 2014 by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after an investigation identified serious flaws with how the generator was used.
On the evening of 27 October Mr Ebirim was asked to guard the home alone because the usual night-time guard was unavailable. His wife raised the alarm when he failed to contact her at the end of his shift the next morning.
Company representatives went to the site but were unable to gain access to the office. 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 before 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. Tests revealed it was capable of producing fatal levels.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) Limited 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, 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 commented:
“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 to keep Mr EIbirim safe, but they failed to do so."