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Safety and Health Practitioner (SHP) is first for independent health and safety news.
June 28, 2010

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Gas heater triggers tanker explosion

A worker at a company providing anti-corrosion products was blown off his feet by the force of an explosion inside a road tanker.

Selby Magistrates’ Court heard that the victim, who wishes not to be named, was working at Repair Protection and Maintenance (RPM) Ltd’s facility in Kellington, North Yorkshire, when the incident took place on 7 July 2008.

He was attempting to light a liquid petroleum gas heater, which was being used as part of the preparation for a coating treatment to the inside of the tanker, when a spark ignited flammable gasses that had accumulated inside the tanker. The explosion knocked him off his feet and he suffered a fractured skull and severe burns to his legs, arms and face. As a result of the incident, he has lost most of his sense of smell and his hearing has been impaired. Another colleague, who was working inside the tanker, escaped with minor injuries.

The HSE’s investigation found that no pre-entry tests for flammable vapours had been carried out inside the tanker. HSE inspector Jacqueline Ferguson said: “The employee has suffered terrible injuries, but it could have been much worse – he could have lost his life. HSE has produced much guidance on how to make sure the work place is properly protected. If procedures had been followed correctly, this incident would have been avoided.

“Even though the gas heater was not running, RPM’s failure to carry out a risk assessment and pre-entry testing for toxic or flammable vapours in the tanker was unacceptable.”

RPM appeared in court on 22 June and pleaded guilty to breaching reg.4(2) of the Confined Spaces Regulations 1997, for failing to carry out a risk assessment for working in a confined space, and reg.3(1)(a) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. It was fined a total of £3250 and ordered to pay £2656 in costs.

RPM director Dan McDonald told SHP: “We very much regret the injuries suffered by a valued member of staff. We are pleased that he has made a good recovery and was able to get back into full employment relatively quickly.

“The HSE and the court agreed that the breach in the company’s health and safety procedures, which resulted in the accident, was an isolated incident in an otherwise exemplary 13-year safety record.

“Since the accident we have reviewed our safety procedures leading to an accident-free 24 months. We have also gained a safety commendation for a site team that worked on a large overseas project, which involved more than 25,000 contractors working on site.”

Approaches to managing the risks associated Musculoskeletal disorders

In this episode of the Safety & Health Podcast, we hear from Matt Birtles, Principal Ergonomics Consultant at HSE’s Science and Research Centre, about the different approaches to managing the risks associated with Musculoskeletal disorders.

Matt, an ergonomics and human factors expert, shares his thoughts on why MSDs are important, the various prevalent rates across the UK, what you can do within your own organisation and the Risk Management process surrounding MSD’s.

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