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South Yorkshire engineering group fined for fatality.

A listed South Yorkshire engineering group has been fined £700,000 following a fatal accident at one of its subsidiaries’ premises.

Pressure Technologies, Sheffield, confirmed last November (2019) that its subsidiary, Chesterfield Special Cylinders, had been convicted of a charge brought by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) under Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 following the death in June 2015.

Pressure Technologies was fined £700,000 and must also pay prosecution costs of £169,498.82 at a sentencing hearing in January 2020 at Sheffield Crown Court.

The death happened on 10 June 2015 when John Townsend, 64, was wounded by shrapnel ejected from equipment he was using to leak-test eight 1,500p-litre cylinders, by applying compressed air inside to create pressure.

While John Townsend was venting air through the test manifold, it catastrophically failed and shrapnel, which was ejected, killed him.

An HSE investigation found that before installing the fittings, 1.5 litres of a mineral, oil-based corrosion inhibitor had been placed into each of the cylinders.

The incident happened because the inhibitor contaminated the leak test manifold while Mr Townsend was venting the cylinders and there was enough pressure inside the manifold to ignite and cause the test equipment to fail.

After the hearing, HSE inspector, Eddy Tarn, said: “This was a tragic and wholly- avoidable incident, caused by the company’s failure to identify any additional risks that arise when work processes are adapted.  /more...

“Companies should accurately identify and control all potential hazards in the workplace and thereafter monitor performance through effective supervision.”

The court gave the company time to pay the combined fine and costs. The first instalment of £214,879 will be made in April 2020 and six, six-monthly instalments will be made between July 2020 and January 2023.

Pressure Technologies chief executive, Chris Walters, said: “Chesterfield Special Cylinders and Pressure Technologies Group respect the decision of the jury and the sentencing.

“We deeply regret the events that resulted in the death of our colleague and long- standing employee, John Townsend, which has left a terrible gap in the lives of his family, friends and colleagues, with whom our deepest sympathies remain.

“The Pressure Technologies Group operates in safety-critical industries.  We are committed to achieving the highest safety standards and the judge has remarked upon the company’s decent safety record and attitude.

“This tragic incident occurred in June 2015 and, since then, we have made significant changes and improvements to the way we operate at the Chesterfield Special Cylinders site and across all group sites as we continually strive to improve the safety of our operations and our employees.”