A commercial vehicle dealer has been sentenced after an employee was injured in an oil drum blast.
The agency worker had been cutting up an empty drum using an oxy-acetylene gas cutter when the flame ignited flammable vapours inside the drum. The explosion resulted in the drum body landing some 20m away with the drum lid hitting the worker’s leg – it had to be amputated from the knee down.
A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found the company did not:
- Have a safe system of work to dispose of stockpiled empty oil drums.
- Identify that empty drums contained vapours posing fire and explosion risks.
- Communicate the risks of using oxy-acetylene gas equipment to workers – instruction, supervision and training on the associated risks was inadequate.
Safe System of Work
The HSE said the life-changing injuries could have been prevented if a suitable safe system of work had been in place. It stressed that “those in control of work have a responsibility to devise safe methods of working and to provide the necessary information, instruction and training to their workers”.
Businesses handling dangerous substances and explosive atmospheres are legally required to have a DSEAR assessment carried out by a competent person.
Unfortunately, many firms fail to understand the risks presented by dust, vapours and gases. Accordingly, they fail to make sure suitable risk assessments are undertaken and necessary controls put in place.