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Industrial gas supplier fined after plant explosion leaves worker injured

Date:
8 August 2014

A multinational industrial gas supplier based in Surrey has been fined after an explosion at one of its manufacturing plants in Bristol left a worker with life changing injuries. 

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted BOC Ltd after a plant explosion and fire caused Alan Garton, 57, from Bristol, to suffer serious burns and injuries. Two other employees, Craig Knight and Dale Roberts were also injured in the incident.   

Bristol Crown Court heard yesterday (7 August) how on 7 January 2010 Mr Garton, at that time an employee at BOC Ltd’s Dissolved Acetylene Filling Plant at Whitby Road in Brislington, was filling an acetylene cylinder as part of a routine operation when the incident happened. The acetylene solution within the cylinder became unstable and the cylinder exploded, starting a fire which was allowed to burn for eight days, until, after careful consideration, it was extinguished by Avon Fire & Rescue Service.  

Mr Garton suffered multiple lacerations and significant burns to his left thigh, left arm and head. 

An investigation by HSE found that BOC had failed to ensure the health, safety and welfare of its employees and did not take necessary measures to prevent a major accident. 

BOC Ltd, of Priestley Road, SurreyResearchPark, Guildford was fined £175,000 with costs of £85,000 after admitting breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. No evidence was presented on the other charge concerning a breach of the Control of Major Accident Hazard Regulations 1999.

After the hearing, HSE Inspector Evan Bale, said: “Mr Garton’s serious injuries could have been avoided with some simple measures such as a thorough assessment of the risks, including an identification of human error potential and the design of the work. 

“Acetylene is a colourless gas which is widely used as a fuel and a chemical building block. It is very unstable in its pure form and is normally dissolved in a solution within a cylinder prior to distribution. The company fell below the standard expected for controlling risks associated with handling this hazardous chemical. 

“BOC Ltd’s plant in Brislington is a major hazard site and is subject to the COMAH regulations. There is no excuse for any major hazard operator failing to take all necessary measures to prevent major accidents.”

Further information about explosives can be found on the HSE website at http://www.hse.gov.uk/explosives/index.htm

Notes to Editors: 

  1. 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. Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 states: “It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees.” 
  3. Further HSE news releases are available at www.hse.gov.uk/press.

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