Lone Working Carbon Monoxide Fumes Death

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Posted on 14 Feb 2014

A security company has been fined for safety failings after a lone working security guard was killed by carbon monoxide fumes from a petrol generator.

The security guard was overcome by the gas as he kept a night-time watch over a disused nursing home that was awaiting demolition. He was asked to guard the home alone because the usual night-time guard was unavailable.

The generator was placed next to a door leading to a courtyard, and a sign on the door stated: ‘When running the generator please keep this door open’. Generators of this kind were designed for outdoor use and should never have been used indoors. HSE inspectors also found that the generator was prone to running out of fuel in the early hours of the morning and that refilling in the dark posed an additional safety risk because there was a greater chance of spilling petrol and causing a fire.

The employer Anchor Services (GB) Limited (“Anchor”) was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after an investigation identified serious flaws with how the generator was used. The court was told that Anchor failed to assess the risks posed by the generator and also failed to implement its agreed lone working procedures.

The company was found guilty of breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. It was fined £20,000, the maximum penalty available to Magistrates, and was ordered to pay a further £35,656 in costs.


Lone workers are those who work by themselves without close or direct supervision. Lone working must be risk assessed and an escalation procedure put in place to ensure the safety of personnel. The risk assessment should identify foreseeable events. Emergency procedures should be established and personnel should understand what action to take if there is an emergency. Basic controls such as having a charged mobile phone, access to first aid provisions, emergency numbers and telephone contact with a nominated person for expected times of finishing a shift all support the management of lone workers.

Lone workers should be medically fit and not endanger themselves. When reviewing risks, medical conditions such as epilepsy, diabetes or other conditions may be factors to consider.

Lone workers should be suitably monitored during work periods. This may include periodic visits, pre-agreed contact, manually operated or automatic warning devices and other checks.

The articles published on this website, current at the date of publication, are for reference purposes only. They do not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Specific legal advice about your own circumstances should always be sought separately before taking any action.

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