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Airfield operator fined after firefighter killed by discharging gas cylinder

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An airfield operator has been fined £75,000 following the death of an experienced firefighter who was struck by a 65kg pressurised gas cylinder as it unexpectedly discharged.


Steven Mills, 45, was clearing out a number of disused shipping containers for his employer Kemble Air Services, the operator of Cotswold Airfield, on 8 April 2011. A number of redundant gas cylinders, which were formerly part of a fire suppression system, needed to be removed to make way for a new training facility.

But as Mr Mills attempted to move the 65kg freestanding cylinder the remaining gas began to quickly discharge, causing it spin violently, striking him on the head and leaving him with fatal injuries.

Gloucester Crown Court was told on 13 May that had the removal work been suitably assessed and managed the incident could have been avoided.

An earlier trial in March heard that Mr Mills was employed by Kemble Air Services as station officer at the airfield and was also a retained firefighter with Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service.

HSE’s investigation revealed that the cylinders had been removed from containers on the previous day by a number of firefighters from the Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service under the direction of Mr Mills. They had also been subject to the same risks.

Inspectors identified that Kemble Air Services did not assess or consider the risk of decommissioning the fire suppression system.

Kemble Air Services Ltd was fined £75,000 and ordered to pay £98,000 in costs after being found guilty of two breaches of regulation 3(1) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.

“Kemble Air Services failed to ensure the safety of its employees and others who were carrying out work to decommission fire suppression systems,” said HSE inspector Ian Whittles after the hearing.

“This incident could have been prevented if Kemble Air Services had the appropriate oversight and control of the project to develop the training facility. They should have ensured that the work was suitably planned following a full assessment of the risks associated with the work. Sadly their failing to suitably assess the risks and implement the necessary controls led to the death of Mr Mills.”

 

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