HSE: Safety breaches led to fuel tank blast

A Hampshire fuel services contractor has been fined after a worker suffered burns while cutting up a tank for removal.

The accident occurred in March 2012 when Ringwood-based contractor Laurence Greenland was employed to dispose of 20,000-litre fuel tanks from the site in Iwerne Minster, Blandford Forum.

A man in his 20s suffered burn injuries to his face and wrist when sparks from a disc cutter ignited fuel vapour in the disused tank, Bournemouth Crown Court.

Intensive care

Before the cutting task was carried out, fuel was emptied from the tank and it was de-gassed in order to remove any flammable material. A gas detector gave a gas reading of zero, the court heard.

But once the disc cutter came into contact with the tank, an explosion occurred in which nearby properties and vehicles were damaged. The injured worker, who wished to remain unnamed, spent two days in intensive acre but has since made a full recovery.

Following an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Mr Greenland, 54, pleaded guilty to breaching safety standards and was ordered to pay £9,000 in fines and costs.

Poor preparations

The HSE listed a number of failings, including an inadequate safety assessment, while the gas detector used to monitor the atmosphere had not been suitably calibrated and may have given a inaccurate reading.

Meanwhile, the tank had not been properly cleaned and flammable residues remained, the HSE said, and it suggested that risk could have been reduced by using cold cutting techniques.

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