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Three firms heavily fined after flying gas canister kills man

by Direct 2 Lawyers on July 9, 2013

Three large firms have been heavily fined after a man was struck and killed by a pressurised gas canister.

Three South East firms have been ordered to pay almost £700,000 in fines and costs after a plumber was killed and six other people were seriously injured by dozens of flying gas cylinders.

Mr Adam Johnston, 38, was working on a construction project in Mundells, Herfordshire, as a plumber when the accident happened on 5 November 2008. He was walking with a colleague from one site to another when he was struck by an argonite gas cylinder, causing him serious injuries. He later died of these injuries.

A Health and Safety Executive investigation was then started into the matter. This investigation found that 80 cylinders at the site had been stored without their protection caps – which are critical to the safety of the cylinders – and that they had been left without being properly secured at the site. These cylinders were filled with high-pressure argonite and were intended to be used for fire suppression at the new storage facility that was being built. It was determined that Crown House Technologies Ltd was the principal contractor for the construction work on the site and that it had engaged Kidde Fire Protection Services Ltd to supply and install the fire suppression equipment. The work was actually carried out by Kidde Products Ltd.

The Health and Safety Executive investigation determined that one or more of the companies was responsible for the serious health and safety breaches which had led to the death of one worker and serious physical and psychological injuries caused by the malfunctioning of the argonite cylinders on 5 November 2008. The investigation therefore recommended that a criminal prosecution be commenced.

The matter came before the St Albans Crown Court on 5 July 2013. Crown House Technologies Ltd pleaded guilty to a brach of s.2 and s.3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and was fined £165,000 as well as being ordered to pay a contribution to the prosecution’s costs of £56,696.62. Kidde Fire Protection Services Ltd pleaded guilty to a breach of Regulations 6 and 13(2) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007. They were also fined £165,000 and ordered to pay the prosecution’s costs of £59,696.62. Kidde Products Ltd also pleaded guilty to a breach of s.2 and s.3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. They were also fined £165,000 and ordered to pay the prosecution’s costs of £59,696.62.

No comment could be found from any of the companies’ criminal defence lawyers.

A HSE inspector, Mr Norman Macritchie, commented after the prosecution that: “Mr Johnston had no control over the chain of events which led to his tragic death. He died while going about his business as a result of the shortcomings of others. It is only by chance that this incident did not cause further fatalities.”

Marc Hadrill, a personal injury solicitor at Redmans, commented: “Breaches of health and safety can cause injuries – and potentially even death, as here – to innocent employees and third parties. Employers therefore have an understandable obligation to minimise the risk that their workplaces pose to the safety and welfare of employees and third parties.”

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