Employer Sentenced After Oil Drum Explodes

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Fined £80,000 and ordered to pay costs of £8,167.

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An MOT centre has been sentenced after oil drums supplied by them exploded and killed an agricultural engineer.

Luton Magistrates’ Court heard how on 21 April 2017, Christopher Chatfield, an experienced agricultural engineer, was making metal pheasant feeders for the local game shoot at Puddock Down Warboys, Cambridgeshire.

This involved converting empty 200 litre oil drums by cutting open the lids using a plasma torch. While cutting open the 3rd drum it violently exploded resulting in fatal injuries to Mr Chatfield.

Investigation by HSE Inspectors found that the empty drums, labelled as having contained motor oil, were found to have also previously contained highly flammable gasoline, but had not been labelled correctly. The residual gasoline vapour present within the drums violently ignited upon the action of the hot cutting process, causing fatal injuries to Mr Chatfield. There was a failure to provide any labelling to show that the empty motor oil drums had been re-purposed to store gasoline and this created a risk of fire and or explosion.

Stonehill MOT Centre Ltd of Stockley Meadows, Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire pleaded guilty to breaching Section 6(1)(c) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. They were fined £80,000 and ordered to pay costs of £8,167.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Parmjit Gahir said: “Those who are involved in the sale or supply of an article or substance, in this case used oil drums, have a responsibility to ensure that adequate information is provided so that the person buying the article can ensure that it can be safely used, cleaned and maintained.” The Inspector went on to say; “Failure to provide any labelling information on the used drums, to show that they had also contained gasoline, did not allow for the necessary precautions to be considered and adopted when cutting the drums open. If appropriate labelling had been in place this incident could have been avoided.”

NOTE: Section 6(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 states: It shall be the duty of any person who designs, manufactures, imports or supplies any article for use at work:

(a) to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the manufacturers article is so designed and constructed as to be safe and without risks to health when properly used.

(b) to carry out or arrange for the carrying out of such use at work. testing and examination as may be necessary for the performance of the duty imposed on him by the preceding paragraph.

(c) to take such steps as are necessary to secure that there will be available in connection with the use of the article at work adequate information about the use for which it is designed and has been tested, and about any conditions necessary to ensure that, when put to that use, it will be safe and without risks to health.

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