A frightening incident which occurred on a construction site is an example of how dangerous gas cylinder installation can be if it is not managed correctly. The accident in question occurred on a site in Berkshire, England in 2008 but the horrific memory of that day has been regurgitated by a court case relating to the prosecution of the company involved.
Whenever gas cylinders are being installed, extreme caution should be exercised and no shortcuts should be taken. The incident resulted in the death of a plumber as well as the serious injury of 6 other workers.
The incident happened when one of the cylinders being installed fell over, hitting into other cylinders and causing a chain reaction to be set off. The cylinders apparently rocketed around the site at speeds of up to 170mph, hitting one worker in the head, causing a fatal injury. The heavy argonite gas cylinder struck the 38 year old workman, Adam Johnston causing him to die before he could be rushed to hospital.
The sad incident resulted in massive fines for the company involved because of its inability to protect workers by providing a safe system of work and safe work environment.
Upon further investigation it was revealed that the cylinders were not properly secured and even had missing safety caps. It was also revealed that the cylinders were left unsecured without being safely secured in their racks resulting in the cylinders falling over and erupting, releasing gas under high pressure, causing the cylinder to move and collide with other cylinders, setting off a chain reaction, affecting 66 of the 80 cylinders.
This excerpt from a post on PPConstructionSafety.com explained what happened as workers frantically tried to make it to safety,
A chain reaction developed rapidly and for several minutes shocked and terrified workers desperately sought shelter as they “endured a barrage of heavy cylinders” rocketing around them. This continued until 66 of the 80 cylinders had been discharged.
Some of the cylinders travelled at estimated speeds of up to 170mph and developed sufficient energy to penetrate walls and ceiling voids, travelling into more remote parts of the building.
The court was told that the three companies involved failed to recognise the significant risks involved in the project or to carry out an adequate risk assessment.
The principal contractor and the main contractors failed to co-ordinate the scheduled work activities or to co-operate meaningfully in light of the risks. There had also been insufficient training and supervision.
Little evidence those involved were competent
The image of the construction sites shows the damage done by the accident
This incident highlights the importance of managing hazards such as that presented by gas cylinders. It is also important that employers provide a safe system of work for their employees and train workers on these safe work procedures to avoid a situation such as this one.