Officers from the North East Regional Specialist Operations Unit (NERSOU) are asking motorists to be vigilant after a Wearside car wash, which employed an illegal worker, faces a potential penalty of up to £20,000.
The NERSOU disruption team carried out a number of visits to the Express Hand Car Wash in Elswick Road, Washington, alongside Northumbria Police, Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Environment Agency, Immigration Enforcement and the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) after concerns were raised over the welfare of staff and their working conditions.
During their first visit to the premises last month (April), immigration enforcement officers identified a 20-year-old man, who had been working at the premises, despite not having permission to work in the UK.
Express Hand Car Wash was then served with a Civil Penalty Referral Notice, warning that a financial penalty of up to £20,000 would be imposed 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.
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.
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, including 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. 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.”
If you would like to speak to Crimestoppers anonymously please call 0800555111