Firm fined after gas explosion

North Somerset Courthouse.

North Somerset Courthouse. - Credit: Archant

CALOR Gas has been fined £30,000 after safety failings led to a gas explosion at a Flax Bourton quarry.

The incident happened in June 2010 when two men, Kevin Bates and Graham Crouch, were inspecting liquid petroleum gas tanks at Stancombe Quarry.

As a result of the explosion, Mr Crouch suffered 22 per cent burns to his hands, face and chest and was hospitalised for nine weeks. Mr Bates suffered lesser burns to his face and hands but also required emergency treatment.

Yesterday (Thurs), the men’s employers, Calor Gas, appeared at North Somerset Courthouse in proceedings brought by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

The court heard the men were carrying out a routine inspection of a large industrial gas tank at the quarry. As part of the job, they used specialised equipment on the back of a converted lorry to remove residual gas.

The gas was piped into a slops tank on the back of the truck and a pressure relief valve was fitted to allow excess gas to escape harmlessly into the atmosphere.

However, the men had not fully removed a tarpaulin that covered the valve, which allowed gas to build-up.

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Mr Bates and Mr Crouch were in a special cab attached to the truck when they heard a whistling noise. As they went to see what was happening, the gas ignited and they were caught in the explosion.

The resulting response by the emergency services saw the A370 closed for a number of hours.

Investigating the incident, the HSE discovered Calor Gas had failed to give clear and adequate instructions about removal of the tarpaulin and should have provided more detailed training for staff.

During yesterday’s hearing, the company was fined £30,000 and ordered to pay £105, 983 in costs.

HSE inspector Ian Whittles said: “This was a very serious incident that could easily have resulted in both Mr Crouch and Mr Bates being killed. In the event, they suffered severe burns and a great deal of pain, which could have been avoided.”