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An exploding tandoori oven left a restaurant worker in Handsworth writhing in agony after suffering serious burns to his hands, face and eyes. It emerged that the oven had been installed by a chef, rather than a qualified engineer - – prompting a city wide curry crackdown by trading standards officers.

The explosion happened in November 2008 at Chandni Chowks on Soho Road because the tandoor – the clay oven used in Indian cooking - had a leak on the main supply pipe leading to a build up of gas.

Gas connection

This meant that when the appliance was turned on at the mains, the unsuspecting employee – who was using a burning serviette to light it – was thrown backwards as it exploded in his face.

Oven 2

The restaurant’s owners, Sukdhev’s Catering Services Ltd, pleaded guilty at Birmingham Magistrates Court on 22nd January 2010 to breaching Regulation 35 of the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998, and were fined £3,500 and were ordered to pay costs of £2,500.

That prompted a probe at 27 different restaurants and takeaways. Two ovens involved in accidents were seized and sent away for examination and both were found to be defective.


Another oven from a different premises was being maintained by an engineer who wasn’t qualified to work on catering appliances. The inspections also revealed that only a small percentage of ovens had working ignition systems and that employees were routinely using the unsafe practice of lighting ovens with burning serviettes.

Ventilation within three quarters of the kitchens was found to be poor, as they did not have interlocking ventilation canopies, and some of the worst ovens appeared to be home made.

Councillor Neil “Useful” Eustace, Chair of the Public Protection Committee, says: “The results of our inspection were shocking, only 3 of the 27 premises inspected were getting an engineer to examine their ovens, and only 2 of those engineers were found to be competent to work on catering appliances.

“Only 14 premises were using a safe method for lighting the oven. The cylindrical design of the tandoor with an ignition source at the bottom, means that when gas builds up inside and an employee leans in to light it, the oven effectively becomes like a cannon. The potential for injuries is high and that is why we have served a number of enforcement notices”.

Oven maintenance is required by law. The maximum fine has subsequently been increased to £20,000 and can also result in a prison sentence of up to 12 months.



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