Health and Safety News

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St. Helens Managing Director sentenced over gas explosion

The Managing Director of a St Helens gas supply firm has appeared in court after he and an employee suffered multiple burns in an explosion.

John Webster was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after he and another worker received burns to their faces, hands and legs at North West Gases Ltd. A third employee sustained minor injuries in the explosion, which lifted the roof off the building on Alma Street in St Helens.

Liverpool Crown Court heard that Mr Webster, 55, and another worker, who has asked not to be named, had been attempting to remove the valve on an LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) cylinder on 10 April 2008.

The HSE investigation found Mr Webster, whose company provides LPG for a range of uses including powering forklift trucks, had failed to ensure the cylinder was empty and there was no ignition source present before starting work.

Subsequently, gas escaped from the cylinder and ignited. The resulting fire and explosion set Mr Webster's clothing on fire and his employee was thrown across the building.

Both men were treated in a specialist burns unit and the employee suffered post-traumatic stress disorder. A third man who was working outside the workshop also suffered minor injuries.

John Webster was found guilty of a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 by failing to take reasonable care of himself and his employees, following a trial at Liverpool Crown Court. Mr Webster, of Archer Grove in St Helens, was fined £22,500 and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £2,500 on 13 February 2012.


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