‘Be our eyes and ears’ say organised crime squad as raids on car wash uncover immigrant working illegally and list of safety issues

A catalogue of safety issues were uncovered at a car wash business when an immigrant was found working illegally during a raid.

By Fiona Thompson
Friday, 31 May, 2019, 06:00

Faulty electrics, unlabelled chemicals and dirty water running into surface drains were found when checks were made at the Express Hand Car Wash in Washington.

The swoops saw the North East Regional Specialist Operations Unit (Nersou) join forces with Northumbria Police, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the Environmental Agency, Immigration Enforcement and the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA).

They first visited on the back of concerns raised about the welfare of staff and their working conditions.

The inquiry has led Nersou to appeal to people to act as its “eyes and ears” and report concerns if they are worried about employees being mistreated by their managers.

The business faces a potential penalty of up to £20,000 after immigration enforcement officers found a 20-year-old man was employed at the car wash, despite not having permission to work in the UK.

It has been served with a Civil Penalty Referral Notice, warning that it could face the fine unless the employer could demonstrate that appropriate right-to-work document checks were carried out, such as seeing a passport or Home Office document confirming permission to work.

Issues were found with the electrics inside the industrial unit.

A series of inspections have been made to the Elswick Road site in the Armstrong area of the town since last month as the authorities each carried out inquiries.

Officials also discovered a faulty electrical system, noticed dirty water running to the surface drains and raised concern over the unlabelled chemicals being used to clean vehicles.

A second multi-agency visit found that while the premises had been completely rewired, a number of other HSE requirements had not been met.

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A third visit, carried out by the Nersou disruption team and Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS), this month resulted in the owner being given fire safety advice.

An area inside the Express Car Wash building.

This included completing a Fire Risk Assessment, having fire extinguishers and providing staff training, to ensure the safety of the owner, his employees and also members of the public.

Area manager of community safety at TWFRS Lynsey McVay said: “The collaboration between Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service and the other enforcing partners involved has ultimately led to a safer business.

“Our Business Fire Safety Team is here to work with businesses and are willing to provide fire safety advice to ensure the safety of the public.”

A representative from Nersou’s disruption team said: “We would ask members of the public to help us and act as our eyes and ears in the community.

Bare wires were found on electrical appliances within the business.

“If you see something you think is suspicious, or you have concerns about someone’s welfare, we would encourage you to report concerns to police, local authorities and other statutory bodies.

“If you have any concerns about a local business or individuals we would ask you contact your local police force or Crimestoppers and your information will be acted upon.”

Crimestoppers can be contacted anonymously please call 0800 555 111.

Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service area manager Lynsey McVay.