Oxygen explosion causes worker severe injury and costs firm £1m fine

Oxygen is used throughout many sectors of industry and healthcare.  This common element can be taken for granted as we are so familiar with its name and its use.

Are you aware that;

  1. increasing the concentration of oxygen in air from its normal 21% to just 24% can make an enormous difference  in how easily items will catch alight;
  2. They will also be far harder to put out once they are burning and will burn much more fiercely;
  3. Oxygen which is pure and at high pressure (from a cylinder or supply line for example) can react spontaneously with oils, greases and other materials causing them to catch light;
  4. Nearly all materials including textiles, rubber and even metals will burn vigorously in the presence of pure oxygen.

More information on all of the above and the correct precautions which must be in place can be found here; http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg459.pdf

Below is an accident which illustrates the dangers of bad practices around oxygen.  If you need helps and support on these and other issues please do contact us for more information.

Case Law: Oxygen Pipe Explosion

Sheffield Crown court heard that work was carried out by an in-house contractor to fit a valve to an oxygen pipe that carried 99.9 per cent pure oxygen in August 2013

The worker was checking the work when he heard hissing from the valve. When investigating the noise, the pipe and valve erupted in flames causing the person to suffer 60- 70 per cent burns.

As a result of the severe injuries he suffered he was initially not expected to survive and underwent several skin grafts whilst being kept in a coma for several weeks.

A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found that the oxygen pipe had been fitted with contaminated second-hand flanges and butterfly valves containing materials unsuitable for use with oxygen.

Sheffield Forgemasters Engineering Limited of Brightside Lane, Sheffield pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and were fined £1,000,000 with £58,000 costs.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Carol Downes commented: “This incident could so easily have been avoided by simple carrying out correct control measure and safe work practices.”

“Companies should be aware that HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those that fall below the required standard.”

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