Briar Chemicals fined £1m following fatal accident

Article by Amanda Doyle

BRIAR Chemicals has been fined £1m (US$1.4m) following the death of a contractor at its site in Norwich, UK, in 2018.

On 27 July 2018, maintenance contractor Rob Cranston was killed when an explosion occurred at the Briar Chemicals site. Cranston was working alongside his son, Owen, to perform repair work as part of planned maintenance on a mixing vessel. A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found that toluene residue had been left inside the vessel, and that a welding torch or grinder likely ignited the toluene vapour.

The investigation also found that two valves above the vessel in the supply pipe were leaking toluene. When the vessel was shutdown at the beginning of June 2018, operatives transferred toluene from one tank to another via the supply pipe, which allowed toluene to leak into the vessel. The vessel was assumed to be empty and clean prior to the maintenance works beginning.

The HSE found that Briar Chemicals failed to take all necessary measures to prevent the explosion.

HSE inspector Frances Bailey, who led the three-year investigation, said: “This was a complex and highly technical investigation, due to the chemical hazards on site and the number of underlying issues which combined to cause the explosion. HSE hope that this case helps to communicate important safety messages to wider industry so that other fires and explosions are prevented in future.”

“Any company handling or storing flammables should consider the potential risk of fire and explosion and ensure they have robust procedures in place to minimise and control risk at all times, including during planned maintenance work.” 

Article by Amanda Doyle

Staff Reporter, The Chemical Engineer

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