Last reviewed 4 July 2022

It may sell “probably the best lager in the world” but Carlsberg now has a significant safety fail on its record after pleading guilty in Birmingham Crown Court to charges relating to an ammonia gas leak at one of its breweries.

The incident happened at Carlsberg’s site in Northampton in 2016 and resulted in the death of one sub-contractor while leaving another seriously injured.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) told the court that the brewing company had failed to put appropriate isolation controls in place to prevent exposure to ammonia before work started on removing a compressor from a refrigeration system.

Following a large uncontrolled release of ammonia, 20 people needed hospital checks and it was several days before the leak was contained and gas levels dropped to a safe level.

Carlsberg pleaded guilty to charges under s.2(1) and s.3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, and Regulation 3(1) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.

The company was fined £3 million with costs of £90,000.

HSE Principal Inspector Samantha Wells said: “Industry guidance on safe isolation of plant should have been followed. This would have ensured that a higher level of isolation was in place, for prevention of exposure to this highly toxic and flammable substance”.

Projects involving multiple contractors require effective management arrangements, she went on, so that it is clear who is responsible for every part of the work and that safety checks are carried out before allowing work to start.

There was also a very clear duty on the Principal Contractor, Ms Wells emphasised, and it would have faced legal action had it not been placed into compulsory administration by creditors.