Plumber killed by barrage of flying gas cylinders

Grant Prior 6 years ago
Share

Three firms including Crown House Technologies have been ordered to pay a total of £685,787.31 in fines and costs after a plumber died and six other workers were seriously injured by a barrage of flying gas cylinders.

Adam Johnston, 38, from Sutton, Surrey, was hit by one of 66 cylinders as they rocketed at speeds of up to 170 mph at an HSBC data centre construction site

The carnage was caused after one toppled over discharging high-pressure gas before colliding with others and setting-of a horrific chain reaction.

Johnston was walking with a colleague on the site at Mundells in Welwyn Garden City when he was struck by one of the argonite gas cylinders as they were propelled 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 resulting from the trauma of that day.

carnage

The carnage caused by the exploding cylinders

An HSE investigation into the incident, on 5 November 2008, found that Johnston died as a result of a series of unsafe practices relating to the installation of fire suppression equipment at the new-build storage facility.

Crown House Technologies Ltd of Dartford, Kent, was principal contractor for the project and engaged Kidde Fire Protection Services Ltd, of Slough, Berkshire, to supply and install fire suppression equipment at the new facility under construction.

This work was carried out by Kidde Products Ltd, also from Slough.

St Albans Crown Court heard that 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 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.

Johnston, a father of two, who was employed by Crown House Technologies Ltd, was struck by one of the cylinders as it was propelled from the room.

Six other workers sustained injuries. The building itself was severely damaged.

Crown House Technologies Ltd pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to safety breaches and was fined £117,000 and ordered to pay costs of £119,393.65

Kidde Fire Protection Services Ltd pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing and was fined £165,000 and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £59,696.72.

Kidde Products Ltd, pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing and was fined £165,000 and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £59,696.72.

The court was told that 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.

After the case, HSE Principal Inspector Norman Macritchie, said: “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.”

 

Latest news

27% of roof steel stripped from HS2 station design

Value engineers save £7m on Balfour Beatty/Vinci's Old Oak Common station project
17 mins ago

Scape slashes firms on next generation Venture framework

Venture Framework contractors cut from 13 to six firms
18 hours ago

Galliford Try Partnerships buys northern builder

£62m turnover Strategic Team Group to be renamed Galliford Try Partnerships Yorkshire
14 hours ago

FRP Advisory appointed Shaylor administrator

Administrator confirms around 200 redundancies at collapsed Midlands contractor
18 hours ago

Buckingham bags relief road for HS2 village

New route will spare Northamptonshire village from site traffic
46 mins ago

Skills card scheme shuts safety test loophole

Tightening up of rules will see everyone sit a current CITB safety test
16 mins ago

Kier cutting 1,200 jobs and selling housing arm

Contractor quitting non-core operations as debt levels rise again
24 hours ago

Boost your online presence – join the Enquirer Directory

Site for suppliers and buyers showcases products, services and latest stories
1 year ago

Shaylor staff laid-off by Sunday morning email

Over 200 staff to be axed as directors confirm Shaylor is heading for administration
1 day ago

Willmott Dixon margin hits 2.8% as profit soars

Group builds cash reserve to weather further Brexit project delays
1 day ago

Multiplex brings profit back on track

Profit recovers to £18m on revenue of £1.1bn
23 hours ago

Roof safety horror show lands contractor in court

Photos show roofers risking their lives after HSE had already served a stop notice
1 day ago

United Living wins £18m Poole tower blocks revamp

Project Admiral will see four housing tower blocks upgraded
1 day ago

Shaylor files notice of intent to appoint administrator

Subcontractors walk off sites as Midlands contractor seeks extra finance
4 days ago

Bidders day for £900m Heathrow rail tunnel project

Planned 6.5km rail link between the Great Western Main Line and London Heathrow Airport
4 days ago

Grenfell: 75% of unsafe blocks still to be reclad

Owners of 328 high rise blocks still need to complete remediation
4 days ago

Building products firm Alumasc issues profit warning

Problems at Levolux division cast shadow over upcoming results
4 days ago

Wooden football stadium plan rejected

Council rejects Forest Green Rovers plan for Zaha Hadid designed new ground
5 days ago

Flannery Plant Hire spends £30m on Cat machines

Huge deal signed at Plantworx exhibition
4 days ago

£1bn Stratford East Bank scheme clears final planning

Cultural and education centre in Olympic Park ready to go
5 days ago

Ringway wins £420m road maintenance deal

Highways England East Region contract could last 15 years
5 days ago

Hammerson unveils new Birmingham city quarter plan

1,300 homes and 1.4m sq ft of workspace planned for Martineau Galleries site
5 days ago

Planning row sees roads blocked on Persimmon site

Council blocks construction traffic to housing site
5 days ago

Tolent lands £84.5m Durham Milburngate contract

Contractor bags one of its biggest ever deals with main construction work set to start shortly
6 days ago

Government commits to net zero carbon by 2050

Industry must quickly rise to the challenge of improving the existing building stock
6 days ago

Extra week to put forward your favourite construction firms

Construction Enquirer Awards deadline extended: Enter online now
1 week ago

Wates ramps up FM offering with new business

Wates FM will target public sector work and wider spectrum of private clients
6 days ago

Worker killed by remote-controlled crane

Lift goes fatally wrong on National Grid site
6 days ago

Lendlease to start Manchester Potato Wharf phase 2

Castlefield scheme consists of two eight storey blocks
6 days ago

Wood drafted in for Hinkley Point C technical services

New Hinkley technical support deal to improve project delivery and commercial performance
6 days ago

Contractor services