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BOC faces £250k fine and costs after plant explosion

15 August 2014

The multinational industrial gas supplier was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive after the explosion at one of its manufacturing plants in Bristol left a worker with life changing injuries.

Alan Garton, 57, from Bristol, suffered serious burns and injuries. Two other employees, Craig Knight and Dale Roberts were also injured in the incident.   


On 7 January 2010 Mr Garton, at that time an employee at BOC’s Dissolved Acetylene Filling Plant at Whitby Road in Brislington, was filling an acetylene cylinder as part of a routine operation when the incident happened.


The acetylene solution within the cylinder became unstable and the cylinder exploded, starting a fire which was allowed to burn for eight days, until, after careful consideration, it was extinguished by Avon Fire & Rescue Service.  


Mr Garton suffered multiple lacerations and significant burns to his left thigh, left arm and head. 


"BOC’s plant in Brislington is a top tier major hazard site and is subject to the COMAH regulations. There is no excuse for any major hazard operator failing to take all necessary measures to prevent major accidents.”


An investigation by HSE found that BOC had failed to ensure the health, safety and welfare of its employees and did not take necessary measures to prevent a major accident. 


BOC, of Priestley Road, Surrey ResearchPark, Guildford was fined £175,000 with costs of £85,000 after admitting breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. No evidence was presented on the other charge concerning a breach of the Control of Major Accident Hazard Regulations 1999.


After the hearing, HSE Inspector Evan Bale, said: "Mr Garton’s serious injuries could have been avoided with some simple measures such as a thorough assessment of the risks, including an identification of human error potential and the design of the work. 


"Acetylene is a colourless gas which is widely used as a fuel and a chemical building block. It is very unstable in its pure form and is normally dissolved in a solution within a cylinder prior to distribution. The company fell below the standard expected for controlling risks associated with handling this hazardous chemical. 


"BOC’s plant in Brislington is a top tier major hazard site and is subject to the COMAH regulations. There is no excuse for any major hazard operator failing to take all necessary measures to prevent major accidents.”

 
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