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CONFINED SPACE DOUBLE FATALITY

Massive fine imposed after two lives lost in confined space incident

Bodycote HIP Ltd of Macclesfield, Lancs has been fined £533k and ordered to pay £200k in prosecution costs following two deaths at a manufacturing plant in Hereford.

On 4th June 2004 the Works Manager and Maintenance Engineer were found collapsed on the stairs leading to a concrete-lined pit into which argon gas had leaked from a large pressure vessel.

The oxygen alarm system for the pit was switched off and the ventilation system was not running.

HSE Inspector Luke Messenger said: “Confined spaces can be found in a wide range of workplaces and these deaths should serve as a reminder to all industries of the dangers of this type of work. Entry to confined spaces should be avoided if possible, but where entry has to be made the work should be done by properly trained and authorised persons in accordance with a safe system of work. Simple checks then need to be made to ensure that employees are, in fact, following the system.

“The company failed to undertake a proper risk assessment for entry into the confined space. Although they had implemented a safe system of work and permit to work procedure, they had not properly trained employees in their use, or ensured that these systems and procedures were being followed through their auditing procedure.”

Comment: This tragic event occured in a manufaturing setting yet it still has important lessons for construction. Confined spaces present a risk on many construction projects and failure ” to ensure systems and procedures are being followed through auditing” is a phrase that can be found in many construction accident reports.

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