An Essex plumber was given a suspended prison sentence and community service after carrying out illegal and unsafe gas work at two fried chicken shops in Southend-on-Sea.

Richard Smith, 56, from Dagenham, exposed staff and customers to the risk of explosion and injury after leaving gas appliances in a condition classified as ‘at risk’.

Mr Smith was prosecuted for serious breaches of gas safety regulations on 16 April after his sub-standard work was uncovered at Tasty Chicken, Westcliff-on-Sea, and The Chick Inn, Southend-on-Sea in June 2013.

Southend-on-Sea Magistrates’ Court heard that Mr Smith visited both premises on 5 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.

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 received while working for a former employer. HSE gave him a warning against making false claims with clients in 2011 which he ignored.

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

HSE inspector Sue Matthews said: “Anyone working on gas appliances needs to be a member of the Gas Safe Register to prove they are competent to work on the gas appliances concerned.

“Mr Smith defied these requirements as he was not registered and had never been trained to work on commercial catering equipment. He also falsely claimed to be Gas Safe registered in spite of a previous warning by HSE in 2011 that this was against the law.

“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.”