Flammable atmosphere created during plumbing work caused dangerous explosion

28 July 2020

A plumbing and heating company has been fined after an employee suffered serious burns following an explosion at a domestic property in Lancashire.

An employee of John Leadley Ltd was soldering new water pipes while replacing a gas boiler at a residential property. A gas supply pipe has been cut prior to installation of the new boiler, but the open end of that pipe had not been sealed with an appropriate fitting. When the employee used a blow torch, it ignited the flammable atmosphere that had developed and there was a sudden explosion that caused serious burn injuries to the employee.

Investigating Health and Safety Executive officers found that the gas supply had not been correctly isolated from the property, allowing gas to pass through the open-ended pipe into the hallway. The homeowners were in the property at the time.

Explosive atmospheres can be caused by residential gas supplies; if there is enough of the substance, mixed with air, then all it needs is a source of ignition to cause an explosion.

The company pleaded guilty to breaching ss.2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc, Act 1974. The company was fined £5000 and ordered to pay costs of £4756.35.

Employers are reminded of their duties concerning managing the risks to safety from fire and explosion, ie:

  • find out what dangerous substances are in their workplace and what the risks are

  • put control measures in place to either remove those risks or, where this is not possible, control them

  • put controls in place to reduce the effects of any incidents involving dangerous substances

  • prepare plans and procedures to deal with accidents, incidents and emergencies involving dangerous substances

  • ensure employees are properly informed about and trained to control or deal with the risks from the dangerous substances

  • identify and classify areas of the workplace where explosive atmospheres may occur and avoid ignition sources (from unprotected equipment, for example) in those areas.