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April 2, 2014

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Explosion severed worker’s leg, court hears


A worker filling gas cylinders had his leg severed below the knee when a faulty cylinder he was filling exploded at Guardian Gas Ltd, Brynmenyn Industrial Estate, Bridgend.

Andrew Wright, 43, from Sketty, near Swansea, was filling the cylinder with nitrogen and carbon dioxide when the explosion happened on 29 March 2010. He subsequently had his leg amputated above the knee and has been unable to return to work since.

The incident was investigated by the HSE, which prosecuted Gaspack Services Ltd at Cardiff Crown Court on 31 March. An inspector said that failure to properly inspect the gas cylinders lead to a critical flaw being undetected.

The court heard that Mr Wright had filled the cylinder for use in the drink’s industry to 230 bar pressure and was disconnecting the filling hose when the explosion happened.

HSE’s investigation found the failed cylinder was one of a batch of cylinders which Guardian Gas had sent to Gaspack, a certified cylinder inspection body, for inspection, testing and certification to prove their safety for a further 10 years. The cylinders had been returned to Guardian Gas certified as safe to use.

Gaspack’s inspection should have included internal shot blasting to remove corrosion, a thorough internal check to look for cracks or flaws and a hydro test to 345 bar pressure.

HSE found that only the bottom two thirds of the cylinder had been shot blasted and the rest of the surface was covered in rust. An examination showed the explosion was due to a large crack near the top of the cylinder.

Other cylinders from the same batch had also not been shot blasted near the top third. The layer of rust found in these cylinders would have rendered any internal inspection looking for flaws or cracks meaningless, since they would be concealed by the rust.

An examination of the arrangements at Gaspack also revealed shortcomings in procedures, information, records, competency, supervision and monitoring.

Gaspack Services Ltd of Gellihirion Industrial Estate, Pontypridd, pleaded guilty to a breach of section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and was fined £30,000 and ordered to pay £60,000 in costs.

HSE inspector Alan Strawbridge, speaking after the hearing, said: “Gaspack’s failure to properly inspect the cylinders meant a critical flaw went undetected. This cylinder later exploded causing Mr Wright’s severe injuries, which could easily have claimed his life.

“A full cylinder contains a large amount of explosive energy which is why cylinders are subject to a regime of inspection and testing to ensure their safety.

“Any cylinder inspection body must ensure accurate procedures are in place, employees have access to information and instructions to help them do the job properly and a system of training, supervision, monitoring and auditing is rigorously enforced.

“People using gas cylinders are almost entirely reliant on the inspection body carrying out their duties thoroughly. Gaspack had failed in its duty to ensure that the public were not put at risk because of the poor quality of its inspections.”

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