Infobite 253: Major Brewery Fined after Worker Dies in Gas Leak

A major brewery has been fined £3 million after a man died and another was seriously injured following an ammonia gas leak at one of its breweries.

On 9 November 2016, workers were attempting to remove a compressor from a refrigeration system at their Northampton brewery.

The principal contractor for the project had appointed numerous contractors for the works.

Birmingham Crown Court heard that the brewery had failed to put in place appropriate isolation controls to prevent exposure to ammonia before the work started.

A father of two was killed and another man was seriously injured. Twenty people also needed hospital checks after showing symptoms of ammonia exposure. It was several days before the leak was contained and gas levels dropped to a safe level.

The investigating HSE principal inspector,  said: “Industry guidance on safe isolation of plant should have been followed. This would have ensured that a higher level of isolation was in place, for prevention of exposure to this highly toxic and flammable substance.

“Both the client and the principal contractor should have worked together to ensure that the risk was adequately managed. Not only the client had a duty here. There was also a very clear duty on the principal contractor.

“Projects involving multiple contractors require effective management arrangements, so it’s clear who is responsible for every part of the work and that safety checks are carried out before allowing work to start.”

The brewery pleaded guilty to charges under section 2(1) and section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, and regulation 3(1) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. The company was fined £3 million with costs of £90,000.

HSE’s case against the principal contractor failed to get a hearing because the company was placed into administration.

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