Three companies ordered to pay almost £700,000 after terrifying accident in Hertfordshire…
Three companies in the South East face a total bill of almost £700,000 in fines and prosecution costs after a series of safety breaches led to the death of a plumber and inflicted serious injuries on six others.
The 38-year-old plumber died when he was hit by a gas cylinder that was flying around the plant at high speed after one gas cylinder discharged high pressure gas after falling which unleashed a terrifying chain reaction as it collided with others in the vicinity.
The man suffered severe injuries after being struck and died at the scene while his colleagues also sustained serious injuries and post-accident trauma after the tragic incident in Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire.
The subsequent Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation into the incident discovered that the man’s death could be attributed to the failure to follow safety protocols with regard to the installation of fire suppression equipment at the plant.
The principal contractor for the construction project had hired a Slough-based fire safety company to install fire suppression equipment who themselves used an associated company to carry out the installtion of the new equipment at the facility.
St Albans Crown Court heard that 80 gas cylinders had been stored at the plant without having their safety caps in place while at the same time, they were not safely secured to their racks. The prosecution case against all three companies was taken by the HSE after their investigating team found that when one of the cylinders fell over, its gas valve was unprotected so it released argonite gas under high pressure and caused other cylinders to topple over and do the same. For several minutes heavy cylinders flew around the building at high speed as workers ran for their lives. A total of 66 cylinders were discharged during the episode causing one death, multiple injuries and inflicting significant damage to the structure of the building.
The principal contractor pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2 and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and was fined £117,000 and ordered to pay an additional £119,393.65 in prosecution costs. The fire safety company also pleased guilty to breaching Regulations 6 and 13(2) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 and was fined £165,000 and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £59,696.72 while the associated company who installed the fire suppression equipment too pleaded guilty to breaches of Section 2 and Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and was fined £165,000 and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £59,696.72.
HSE Principal Inspector Norman Macritchie spoke after the hearing had concluded:
“The accident victim had no control over the chain of events which led to his tragic death. He died while going about his business as a result of the shortcomings of others. It is only by chance that this incident did not cause further fatalities.
“There is little evidence that those involved were competent to undertake this work, or that safe systems of work were provided, or that there was suitable cooperation between the contractors involved.
“Employees of other companies were allowed to enter the argonite store while it was potentially unsafe to do so, and there is no evidence that anyone explained the risks to them, or acted effectively to control these risks.
“This incident was devastating for his family and yet it could have been avoided had there been effective planning, management, monitoring and coordination of the relevant activities.
“Health and safety is sometimes dismissed as an unnecessary burden on businesses but this tragic case clearly demonstrates its true importance to those at the ‘sharp end’ of the industry.”
Author: Julian Roberts
Health and Safety News” updates newsletter, click here. The new ‘Health and Safety News’ section on our web site is updated daily with new, up to the minute stories. The stories are also released via Twitter – why not follow us on Twitter? and receive new stories as and when they happen?