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Gas firm fined for workers' injuries in explosion

Calor Gas, of Tachbrook Park, Warwick, has been fined for safety failings after two workers suffered severe burns when they were caught in a flashover explosion triggered by a gas leak near Bristol.

Mr Kevin Bates, 54, from Witney, Oxfordshire, and Mr Graham Crouch, 48, from Lymington, Hampshire, were inspecting LPG gas tanks at Stancombe Quarry, Flax Bourton, when the explosion occurred on 14 June 2010.

Mr Crouch suffered 22 per cent burns to his hands, face and chest and was hospiatlised for nine weeks. Mr Bates suffered lesser burns to his face and hands, but also required emergency treatment.

Calor Gas, who employed Mr Crouch and contracted Mr Bates for the job, appeared before North Somerset Magistrates in proceedings brought by the Health and Safety Executive, which investigated the explosion.

The court heard the men were carrying out a routine inspection of a large industrial gas tank at the quarry.

They used specialised equipment on the back of a converted lorry to remove residual gas from the tank. The gas was piped into a slops tank on the back of the vehicle and a pressure relief valve was fitted to allow excess gas to escape harmlessly into the atmosphere.

The men had not fully removed a tarpaulin that covered the valve, which allowed gas to build-up under the cover on the back of the truck.

HSE established that Calor Gas failed to provide clear and adequate instructions about removal of the tarpaulin and should have provided more detailed training for staff.

Calor Gas was fined a total of £30,000 and ordered to pay £75,983 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching Sections 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

HSE inspector Ian Whittles, speaking after the hearing, said: “This was a very serious incident that could easily have resulted in both Mr Crouch and Mr Bates being killed. In the event, they suffered severe burns and a great deal of pain, which could have been avoided.

“Calor Gas’s instructions about use of the tarpaulin were not clear or adequate and they should have provided more detailed training for their staff. Gas pressure relief valves must never be covered when they might be operating. Any build-up of gas, such as LPG, is potentially lethal.”

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