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News added on 18.11.2020

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Explosive atmospheres

Inadequate training led to avoidable explosion

A logistics company employee was caught in an explosion as he opened the door to a container. How did the explosion occur, and could it have been prevented?

A team leader at A&D Logistics Ltd (A&D) was asked to dry out condensation from an office accommodation container. The custom and practice for doing this was to leave a propane fuelled open-flame gas torch attached to a 47 kg LPG cylinder burning within the container.

The team leader returned four hours later to check on progress. The door appeared to have closed further than when he had left it. He opened the door by putting his hand in the gap between the doors and pulling. There was an explosion, which threw him against a steel workshop container. He sustained flash burns to his arms, face and head.

The investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the company allowed the gas torch and propane cylinder to be left unattended with the torch lit while the team leader carried out other work.

The container did not contain enough oxygen to support safe combustion because there was inadequate ventilation. There was no formal training or instruction for drying out wet containers with a propane gas torch. The staff working in the yard had no “hot work” training and the workwear worn by the team leader was not suitable for such activities.

A&D pleaded guilty to breaching its duty under s.2 Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of its employees. It was fined £48,000.

The employer did not train its employees to carry out this dangerous activity. Simple control measures, including ventilation, to prevent the accumulation of an explosive atmosphere should have been in place, and employees should have been provided with appropriate PPE.

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