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

O’Rourke finally seals UK construction finance deal

Latest accounts reveal pre-tax losses of £43.6m
2 hours ago

April start for Balfour £55m Plymouth link road

Forder Valley Link Road project given £22m of Government funding
3 hours ago

Galliford Try bags £275m Ealing council HQ scheme

Mixed-use West London scheme also includes a library and 470 homes
10 hours ago

Amey Rail appoints former Carillion MD as new chief

Andy Joy promoted to head expanding rail business
9 hours ago

£5.5bn spent on HS2 before any construction started

One tenth of budget spent - agency staff earning £128,000 a year
18 hours ago

Amey in talks to exit Birmingham highways PFI

City council and Amey reported to be close to agreeing PFI exit settlement
8 hours ago

Battle starts for £5bn London major works framework

Over 23 firms aim to retain places on London council framework for five years
18 hours ago

Plans in for UK’s largest modular council homes project

United Living will erect 28-home offsite scheme in Leeds
18 hours ago

Worker killed in 14 metre fall through temporary platform

Rydon and subcontractor fined total of £860,000 after fatal plunge
19 hours ago

Boost your online presence – join the Enquirer Directory

New site for suppliers and buyers showcases products, services and latest stories
10 months ago

Aberdeen bypass to fully open on Tuesday

Last section of the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route finally accepted by Transport Scotland
19 hours ago

Briggs & Forrester targets M&E fast fit-out sector

Group CEO Paul Burton plans further expansion in next two years
18 hours ago

Laing O’Rourke director killed in car crash on way to work

Tributes to Caroline Blackman who died early on Wednesday morning en route to Hinkley
4 days ago

Kier cutting jobs on Highways England contract

More than 100 workers facing redundancy across Midlands Area 9
4 days ago

Buckingham confirmed for £120m Swansea arena

Six months of pre-construction work to now get underway
4 days ago

Two North West smart motorway projects delayed

Costain and Galliford Try jobs put back by more than a year
4 days ago

Lendlease wins £8bn Thamesmead development

Morgan Sindall beaten in race for 11,500 home site
4 days ago

Government pledges £80m for Dawlish sea wall project

South Devon railway sea wall will be rebuilt and increased in height by 2.5m
4 days ago

30 jobs lost as Yorkshire precast firm collapses

Rippon-based Ebor Concretes placed in administration
4 days ago

Go-ahead for 200-home Cardiff build-to-rent scheme

Work to start on central Cardiff scheme this summer
5 days ago

Balfour renews £220m London Tube track upkeep

Four-year term will start in April with option to extend by six years
5 days ago

Bouygues paid £21m not to build Garden Bridge

Transport for London documents detail £53.5m wasted on doomed crossing
5 days ago

Government signs off £250m for major housing projects

Deal to release £157m for housing infrastructure in Cumbria and Devon
5 days ago

Beetham Tower owner faces £4m reclad bill

Owner will have to foot remedial facade works bill in wake of Carillion collapse
5 days ago

WYG profit warning sees share price crash 40%

Consultant back in talks with lenders over breaching banking covenants
5 days ago

United Living hires former Wates business director

Michael Holling takes role as northern and Midlands operations director after 24 years at Wates
5 days ago

Union demands death benefits for all construction workers

Unite says lack of employer-paid cover should be as unacceptable as not wearing a hard hat on site
5 days ago

Scaffold collapse on school misses kids by metres

Court hears how untied scaffold fell into Welsh school
6 days ago

Galliford Try construction hit by more Aberdeen bypass losses

Another £26m hit on bypass plunges construction into red in first half
6 days ago

Council terminates Lakehouse school contract

Willmott Dixon takes over site hit by "performance and project delays"
6 days ago

Contractor services