Company fails to Manage Gas Cylinder Installation

An incident which happened in Berkshire, England in November 2008 is a terrifying reminder of the need for extreme caution when dealing with gas cylinders. The incident cost a plumber his life and resulted in the serious injury of 6 other workers.

The accident happened when a cylinder being installed toppled, setting off a deadly chain reaction as they flew at speeds of up to 170mph, striking one worker fatally. A heavy argonite gas cylinder hit into 38 year old Adam Johnston, who was working on the site.

The companies involved received huge fines and had to pay prosecution costs for failure to ensure a safe system of work for the installation of the fire suppression equipment.

An investigation discovered that safety caps were missing and the cylinders were not properly secured.

The deceased worker was working on the construction project when the gas cylinders started to violently fly around the site, causing him to sustain numerous injuries which led to his death. Other workers were also injured, some seriously but they are lucky enough to be alive.

Upon investigation it was discovered that there were no safety caps on the cylinders which would have negated such a tragic and frightening occurrence. The cylinders were also left without being securely stored in their racks – another contributing factor to the incident. This is what allowed the cylinders to erupt when they fell over, releasing gas under high pressure, causing the cylinder to move and subsequently collide with other cylinders, setting off a chain reaction in 66 of the 80 cylinders being installed.

An article on detailed some of the chaos caused by the incident as it describes how terrified workers sought shelter from the cylinders.

A chain reaction developed rapidly and for several minutes shocked and terrified workers desperately sought shelter as they “endured a barrage of heavy cylinders” rocketing around them. This continued until 66 of the 80 cylinders had been discharged.

Some of the cylinders travelled at estimated speeds of up to 170mph and developed sufficient energy to penetrate walls and ceiling voids, travelling into more remote parts of the building.

The court was told that the three companies involved failed to recognise the significant risks involved in the project or to carry out an adequate risk assessment.

The principal contractor and the main contractors failed to co-ordinate the scheduled work activities or to co-operate meaningfully in light of the risks. There had also been insufficient training and supervision.

Little evidence those involved were competent


One of the things this incident highlights is the sudden nature of construction accidents and the powerlessness of workers to escape some catastrophes that occur at the hands of others. The worker that died had no control over his fate and died due to the failings of others – this is how interconnected we all are on construction sites, the actions of one normally have far reaching consequences which is why safety is so important.


The picture of the scene gives some idea of the chaos that ensued as it depicts cylinders strewn around the site and the damage they caused.



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