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Cotswold Airfield Operator prosecuted following fire-fighter’s death

Date:
13 May 2014

Kemble Air Services Ltd, the operator of Cotswold Airfield, has been fined for safety failings after an experienced fire-fighter was killed while moving a pressurised gas cylinder.

Steven Mills, 45, was employed by Kemble Air Services as Station Officer at the airfield and was also a retained fire-fighter with Wiltshire Fire & Rescue Service. He died on 8 April 2011 during work to clear out a number of disused shipping containers that were being prepared for use as a training facility for the airfield.

As part of the process, a number of redundant gas cylinders, which were formerly part of a fire suppression system, needed to be removed. An earlier trial at Gloucester Crown Court in March heard that Mr Mills was attempting to move a large freestanding cylinder weighing 65kg when the gas in the cylinder discharged very rapidly. This caused the cylinder to spin round violently striking Mr Mills on his head and body leaving him with fatal injuries.

The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) investigated the circumstances of Mr Mill’s death and identified that there was no assessment or consideration of the risk by Kemble Air Services with regards to how the fire suppression system would be decommissioned safely.

The cylinders had been removed from the containers on the previous day by a number of fire-fighters from the Wiltshire Fire & Rescue Service under the direction of Mr Mills. They had also been subject to the same risks from the cylinders.

The Court was told today (13 May) that had the removal work been suitably assessed and managed the incident could have been avoided.

Kemble Air Services Ltd, of Cotswold Airfield, Kemble Nr Cirencester was fined £75,000 and ordered to pay £98,000 in costs after being found guilty of two breaches of Regulation 3(1) of the management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Ian Whittles said:

“Kemble Air Services failed to ensure the safety of its employees and others who were carrying out work to decommission fire suppression systems.

“This incident could have been prevented if Kemble Air Services had the appropriate oversight and control of the project to develop the training facility. They should have ensured that the work was suitably planned following a full assessment of the risks associated with the work. Sadly their failing to suitably assess the risks and implement the necessary controls led to the death of Mr Mills.”

Notes to Editors

  1. The Health and Safety Executive is Britain’s national regulator for workplace  health and safety. It aims to reduce work-related death, injury and ill health. It  does so through research, information and advice; promoting training; new or  revised regulations and codes of practice; and working with local authority  partners by inspection, investigation and enforcement. www.hse.gov.uk
  2. Regulation 3(1) of The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 states that: “Every employer shall make a suitable and sufficient assessment of (a) the risks to the health and safety of his employees to which they are exposed whilst they are at work and (b) the risks to the health and safety of persons not in his employment arising out of or in connection with the conduct by him of his undertaking.”
  3. HSE news releases are available at: press.hse.gov.uk

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