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June 22, 2011

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Untrained worker killed in gas explosion

A worker was killed and a member of the public was seriously injured when a gas cylinder exploded at a workshop in Buckinghamshire.

Oak Farm Gas Company Ltd, which trades as Mr Fizz, owned the workshop in New Denham and used the facility to supply high-pressure carbon dioxide, nitrogen and gas mixtures for licensed-trade drink dispensers.

Isleworth Crown Court heard that Kerry Daly, 21, was employed by Mr Fizz to fill empty gas cylinders with various types of pure and mixed gas. On 19 June 2009, Maurice Kelly, 45, brought an empty cylinder to Mr Daly from a pub in east London. But the cylinder he had provided was taken from the pub’s nitrogen generation unit, and was not meant to be removed. The pub was under temporary management and there were no instructions to tell staff,which cylinder should be removed when drinks dispensers ran out of gas.

Mr Daly was alone in the workshop and noticed that the valve settings on the cylinder did not match those on the high-pressure filling station, so he telephoned a colleague for advice. He was only able to contact one of the firm’s delivery drivers, who was not trained to use the filling station, and he advised Mr Daly not to fill the cylinder. Despite this advice, he attempted to do so and the cylinder exploded. Mr Daly later died from his injuries. Mr Kelly was also seriously injured  – his leg had to be amputated below the knee and he has also lost some function in both of his hands.

HSE inspector Will Pascoe visited the scene and found that the cylinder had a 10 bar pressure limit and Mr Daly was attempting to fill it with a high pressure filling line, which contained gas with 200 bar pressure. The investigation found that Mr Daly had not received any training and was only given verbal instructions on how to fill the cylinders. There was also no evidence that the company had carried out a risk assessment for the work.

Inspector Pascoe said: “This incident was completely preventable. If sufficient training and instruction had been given, then Kerry Daly’s death would not have happened and Maurice Kelly would not have suffered life-changing injuries.

“Anyone who examines, refurbishes, fills, or uses a gas cylinder should be suitably trained and have the necessary skills to carry out their job safely. Employees should understand the risks associated with the energy stored in high-pressure gas cylinders and this incident should serve as a reminder of the dangers that this may pose.”

Oak Farm Gas Company Ltd appeared in court on 17 June and pleaded guilty to breaching s3(1) of the HSWA 1974, and reg.4(3) and reg.6(1) of PUWER 1999. It was fined £30,000 for each offence and ordered to pay £50,000 in costs.

In mitigation, the firm said it felt that Mr Daly had received adequate training to do the work. It now outsources the filling of canisters to another company so it only sells full canisters at the site. The company had no previous health and safety convictions.

Inspector Pascoe told SHP that there was insufficient evidence to take action against the pub.

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12 years ago

This type of prosecution is anther example of the wrong message being sent out about H&S. Even the HSE press statement clearly indicates that the employee was told not to fill the cylinder yet the company are still held liable. It is also interesting to ask the question of “reasonable foreseability” if this cylinder was not meant to be removed then is it reasonably foreseable for a gas filler to expect one to “turn up” on site to be filled?

12 years ago

I’m all for personal responsibility, but there does appear to be a distinct lack of knowledge through training by the deceased about a potentially high risk task. Now, was this a one off and unforeseeable incident, or would proper RAs and training have prevented this tragic outcome? Not sure, but there does seem to be a lack of competence for the task, having been told not to fill the cylinder.

Whatever the likelihood there does seem to be a lack of proper h&s management – no change there!

12 years ago

The outcome of the course was rediculous … makes me angry everytime I see the company van still driving about!!!!

12 years ago

‘ he was told not to fill the canaster’ …. so we heard in court but we will never know the real truth … there were only 2 people at the scene … one is not here to defend himself!!!!