Acetylene cylinder explosion causes serious injury (Britain)

When an employee of a dissolved acetylene filling plant was filling an acetylene cylinder as part of a routine operation, 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 the Fire & Rescue Service.

The employee suffered multiple lacerations and significant burns to his left thigh, left arm and head.

An investigation by Britain’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the company had failed to ensure the health, safety and welfare of its employees and did not take necessary measures to prevent a major accident.

The company 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: “The employee’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.”

“The plant 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.”

Link to the HSE Press Release.

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