Updated Apr 27, 2021

MOT centre prosecuted over fatal explosion

Stonehill MOT Centre Ltd of Stockley Meadows, Cambridgeshire, has been prosecuted following an incident in 2017 that killed an agricultural engineer.

On 21 April 2017, an experienced agricultural engineer, Christopher Chatfield, was making metal pheasant feeders which involved emptying 200 litre oil containers by cutting open the lids with a plasma torch. When he went to cut the third drum, it exploded violently, causing Mr Chatfield to suffer fatal injuries.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigated and found that the empty drums were labelled as having contained motor oil but were found to also have previously contained highly flammable gasoline, and had been left labelled incorrectly.

During the hot cutting process the residual gasoline vapour present in the drums ignited which led to the explosion. No labelling had been provided to show the motor oil drums had been repurposed to store gasoline, and this created a risk of fire and explosion.

The company pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and were fined £80,000 as well as £8,167 in costs.

HSE inspector Parmjit Gahir commented: "Those who are involved in the sale or supply of an article or substance, in this case used oil drums, have a responsibility to ensure that adequate information is provided so that the person buying the article can ensure that it can be safely used, cleaned and maintained."

"Failure to provide any labelling information on the used drums, to show that they had also contained gasoline, did not allow for the necessary precautions to be considered and adopted when cutting the drums open. If appropriate labelling had been in place this incident could have been avoided."