UK Engineering Firm Fined After Pressure Testing Explosion

Filtration Service Engineering Ltd had pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, the Health and Safety Executive reported.

A Worcestershire engineering firm, Filtration Service Engineering Ltd, has been fined £30,000 (about $50,000 in U.S. dollars) and ordered to pay £15,325 (about $26,000) in costs on Feb. 20 after pleading guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 in connection with a 2011 pressure testing explosion, the Health and Safety Executive reported.

The agency's report said its investigators found Filtration Service Engineering was testing a 335-liter vessel "because there were concerns about the quality of the welding. However, instead of simply filling it with water, the firm decided to use compressed air." When it exploded on Dec. 8, 2011, part of it struck employee Clive Dainty, 51, who was seriously hurt as a result. Both of his legs were amputated, and he suffered head injuries and has severely restricted movement in his arms, according to HSE's report, which said the force of the explosion also threw a fire extinguisher through a nearby wooden staircase.

The factory's compressed air supply was directly connected to one of the vessel's openings, the report says. "The injuries sustained in this incident were more akin to those sustained on a battlefield," HSE Inspector Ed Fryer said. "The vessel exploded like a bomb during the course of a normal working day, and everyone in the factory was at risk from the operation because no measures were put in place to protect them. Pneumatic testing is a dangerous activity and significant planning is required to ensure the risks are managed. The management of health and safety in this factory was woefully inadequate and simple measures could have been implemented to prevent the incident from happening. An assessment of the risks involved in pneumatic pressure testing should have identified that air was not a suitable testing medium. The test could have been carried out by simply filling the vessel with water."

"It is a miracle that more people were not injured and that nobody lost their life," Fryer added.

Information about the safety requirements for pressure testing can be found here.

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