Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Man killed and 6 injured by flying gas cylinders

A man was killed and six other injured by flying gas cylinders at a construction project.
The circumstances were:
  • Crown House Technologies Ltd of Dartford, Kent, was principal contractor for a construction project.
  • They engaged Kidde Fire Protection Services Ltd, of Slough, Berkshire, to supply and install fire suppression equipment at the new facility.  
  • This work was carried out by Kidde Products Ltd, also from Slough.
  • The three companies involved failed to recognise the significant risks involved in the project or to carry out an adequate risk assessment. 
  • The principal contractor and the main contractors failed to co-ordinate the scheduled work activities or to co-operate meaningfully in light of the risks. 
  • There had also been insufficient training and supervision.
  • 80 cylinders, nearly two metres high and each weighing 142 kg,  were stored without their safety-critical protection caps and left without being properly secured in racks.
  • Other trades involved in the construction project were also working next to these potentially unstable cylinders, unaware of the deadly risks involved.
  • One or more of these cylinders was de-stabilised and probably fell over, causing its unprotected valve to shear off near the cylinder neck. 
  • This released an uncontrolled jet of liquified argonite gas under high pressure, the force of which caused the cylinder to move, colliding with others. 
  • These, in turn, were also knocked over and sustained similar damage.
  • A chain reaction developed rapidly and for several minutes shocked and terrified workers desperately sought shelter as they endured a barrage of heavy cylinders rocketing around them. This continued until 66 of the 80 cylinders had been discharged. 
  • Some of the cylinders travelled at estimated speeds of up to 170mph and developed sufficient energy to penetrate walls and ceiling voids, travelling into more remote parts of the building.
  • The deceased was walking with a colleague when he was struck by one of the argonite gas cylinders as they were propelled alarmingly around the building. He suffered multiple injuries and died at the scene.
  • Several other workers, including electricians working in the argonite store room, suffered injuries and long term effects 

Crown House Technologies Ltd  was fined £236,393 (inc. costs)
Kidde Fire Protection Services Ltd  was fined £224,696 (inc. costs).
Kidde Products Ltd. was also fined £224,696 (inc. costs)..
The HSE  Inspector  said:
"Mr Johnston had no control over the chain of events which led to his tragic death. He died while going about his business as a result of the shortcomings of others. It is only by chance that this incident did not cause further fatalities. There is little evidence that those involved were competent to undertake this work, or that safe systems of work were provided, or that there was suitable cooperation between the contractors involved. Employees of other companies were allowed to enter the argonite store while it was potentially unsafe to do so, and there is no evidence that anyone explained the risks to them, or acted effectively to control these risks. This incident was devastating for his family and yet it could have been avoided had there been effective planning, management, monitoring and coordination of the relevant activities. Health and safety is sometimes dismissed as an unnecessary burden on businesses but this tragic case clearly demonstrates its true importance to those at the 'sharp end' of the industry."

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