Last reviewed 6 May 2021

An MOT centre has been sentenced after supplying incorrectly labelled oil drums which subsequently exploded and killed an agricultural engineer during a hot work process.

Flammable liquids and vapours such as petrol, diesel, fuel oil, paints, solvents, glue, lacquer and cleaning agents are found in many places of work. If a welding or plasma torch or powered cutter is used on a tank or drum containing even residual quantities of flammable material (solid, liquid or vapour), the tank or drum can explode violently.  

Luton Magistrates’ Court have heard of the case of Christopher Chatfield, who on 21 April 2017, was making metal pheasant feeders for a local game shoot by cutting open the lids of 200 litre oil containers using a plasma torch. Investigating Health and Safety Executive officers found that the empty drums had not been correctly labelled. While cutting open the third drum it violently exploded resulting in fatal injuries to Mr Chatfield.

The containers were labelled as having contained motor oil, but they were found to have also previously contained highly flammable gasoline, residues of which violently ignited during the hot cutting process, causing fatal injuries to Chatfield.

Stonehill MOT Centre Ltd of Cambridgeshire pleaded guilty to breaching s.6(1)(c) of the Health and Safety at Work, etc Act 1974 and was fined £80,000 and ordered to pay costs of £8,167.

Had adequate information on the used drums been provided to show that they had also contained gasoline, the necessary precautions could have been considered and adopted when cutting the drums open and the accident could have been avoided.