A RINGWOOD contractor has been ordered to pay £5,000 after a worker suffered burns to his face and wrist when sparks from the disc cutter he was using ignited fuel vapour in a tank.
Laurence Greenland, 54, of Forest Side Gardens, trading as Fuel Pump and Tank Services, had employed the worker, also from Ringwood, to help remove two 20,000-litre fuel tanks from the site of a former filling station in Iwerne Minster near Blandford Forum.
Before removing the tank that exploded, fuel was emptied and the tank de-gassed so it appeared there was no flammable material or vapour left. The tank atmosphere was monitored using a gas detector until a zero gas reading was given.
Despite his concerns, the worker used a disc cutter, brought by Greenland for this specific task, to cut the tank into sections so it could be removed more easily from the site.
But shortly after he started to cut the petrol end of the tank, it exploded.
As well as injuring the worker a number of nearby properties and vehicles were damaged by flying debris.
The worker, aged in his 20s, was in intensive care for two days but has since made a full recovery.
Greenland was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive at Bournemouth Crown Court after the incident on March 13, 2012.
The HSE’s investigation uncovered a number of safety failings, including an inadequate safety assessment carried out before the work started and no safe system of work in place.
The gas detector used to monitor the atmosphere had also not been suitably calibrated and may have given false readings.
The tank had not been properly cleaned and flammable residues remained, and the HSE says although it would not have completely eliminated the risk of explosion, cold cutting techniques should have been used rather than a disc cutter, which generated heat and sparks.
Greenland pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmosphere Regulations 2002. He was fined £4,000 and ordered to pay £1,000 in costs.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector James Powell said: “A number of failings led to this incident, which was entirely preventable.
“It was only a matter of good fortune that the worker was not killed and other workers and members of the public not seriously injured.”