• Robert Spicer

Somerset Farm Explosion Death: Health And Safety Prosecution

Farm explosion death: £80,000 fine

Health and Safety Executive v Cantelo Nurseries Ltd (2014) Taunton Crown Court, October 24.

Cantelo Nurseries Ltd, a horticultural company, has been fined after one worker was killed and three others seriously injured in an explosion.

Significant points of the case

  • In May 2010 Peter James, an employee of Cantelo, was working at a nursery on a farm near Taunton. He was told to unbolt a hatch cover from a pressurised tank used to heat greenhouses.

  • There was still pressure in the system. A release of pressure sent the hatch cover flying. It struck James, causing fatal injuries. Three other workers suffered serious injuries.

  • The work had not been properly planned, workers had not been properly trained or supervised, and one of them spoke very little English and found it difficult to understand instructions.

  • The hatch should not have been removed until all the pressure had been safely released from the system.

The company was fined £80,000 plus £59,000 costs for breaches of section 2, HSW Act, for failing to ensure the health and safety of employees, and section 3, HSW Act, for failing to ensure the health and safety of non-employees.

An HSE inspector is reported to have made the following comments after the case:

  • The tragic incident had cost one man his life and changed the lives of many other people for ever.

  • There were simple, sensible and proportionate steps, for example releasing the pressure in the tanks, which could and should have been taken to do the work safely.

  • All that was needed was a little thought beforehand to ensure that the work was properly planned, carried out by competent people and supervised.



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