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UK chemical company fined £1 million for fatal 2018 explosion

Christian Fernsby |
Chemical company Briar Chemicals Ltd has been fined £1million after a man died in an explosion at its site in Sweet Briar Road, Norwich.

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Chelmsford Magistrates Court heard how on the 27 July 2018, maintenance contractor, Rob Cranston, aged 46, was carrying out repair work on a mixing vessel during a planned period of shutdown maintenance.

It is thought that his welding torch or grinder accidentally ignited flammable Toluene vapour inside the vessel, which should not have been present when the work commenced. Mr Cranston’s son Owen, aged 22, was working alongside his father when he was killed in the blast.

The HSE investigation found that a quantity of Toluene residue had been left inside the vessel after shutdown cleaning at the beginning of June 2018. Two damaged valves situated above the vessel in the Toluene supply pipe, were also found to be leaking.

Operatives had been instructed to transfer a large quantity of Toluene from one storage tank to another via this pipe which allowed additional flammable liquid to leak into the vessel which was supposed to be empty and clean.

Briar Chemicals Ltd of Sweet Briar Road, Norwich, Norfolk failed to take all necessary measures to prevent the explosion and pleaded guilty to a breach of Regulation 5 of the COMAH Regulations 2015. The company was fined £1million and ordered to pay costs of £10,967.20.


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