11 March 2013
Fatal workplace accident to lead to damages claim?
A catastrophic workplace accident that left a man dead may lead to a food company facing a compensation claim.
David Cole passed away at the age of 37 in April 2009 during a gas explosion at premises owned by Andrew Jones Pies in Huddersfield.
Mr Cole - a father of two - had made repeated attempts to light a 30-year-old oven at the base but was unaware that gas had been building up inside the industrial appliance, meaning that when it did finally ignite, a huge explosion occurred.
The professional, who had worked for the company for 12 years, was standing in front of the equipment and was struck when its large door was blown off its hinges.
The resulting blaze ripped through the factory and Mr Cole got trapped when part of the building's roof collapsed. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Following the incident, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) carried out an investigation in order to ascertain how and why this fatal accident occurred and found that Andrew Jones Pies had committed numerous mistakes.
For instance, it was established that the firm's procedures for opening the ovens were informal and inadequate, as employees had not been offered proper training or advice on how to use them safely.
In addition, the explosion relief panel on the back of the machinery - which should have safely vented excess pressure within the equipment - had been stuck in place for some time and was therefore not in operation.
Consequently, in a case heard at York Crown Court, the firm was fined a total of £250,000 for its negligence after it was found guilty of breaching both the Dangerous Substances and Explosives Atmospheres Regulations 2002 and the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998.
John Micklethwaite, inspector at the HSE, observed: "The explosion could have been avoided if the correct lighting-up procedures had been followed. No more than two attempts to light the oven should have been made. If the oven still failed to light, engineers should have been called in."
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Posted by Chris Stevenson