Company Prosecuted After Worker Killed In Blast

Somerset Firm Hit With Huge Fine Over Fatal Incident


Andrew Robinson, Press Officer | 0113 218 6463
A horticulture firm based in Somerset has been heavily fined over an explosion in a greenhouse that led to the death of one employee and serious injuries to three more.

The tragedy occurred at the Cantelo Nurseries premises at Bradon Farm in Isle Abbots near Taunton in May 2010.

Peter James, who was aged 67, was working with a fellow employee to empty a pressurised tank used to heat greenhouses. This should not have been removed while there was still pressure in the system and as a result, it flew off and was followed by a jet of water that threw the staff members to the ground.

Mr Jones sustained severe head injuries and died six days later, while 29-year-old colleague Arek Kuchczynski also suffered serious head injuries, as well as damage to his forearm. He was unconscious for a fortnight, spent months in hospital and required three operations and a skin graft.

Also injured were 43-year-old horticultural manager Roger Mees, who suffered a broken jaw and multiple cuts, plus 25-year-old technician Radoslau Dimitov.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found that all pressure should have been drained from the system before the hatch was removed, while the work had not been properly planned or supervised and no training had been given. As only one of the four staff involved spoke little English, understanding instructions would have been difficult.

As a result, Cantelo Nurseries was charged with two breaches of health and safety legislation and it pleaded guilty to these at Taunton Crown Court. It was fined £80,000 with costs of £59,812.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Christine Haberfield said: "This tragic incident has cost one man his life and changed the lives of many other people forever. There were simple, sensible and proportionate steps, such as releasing the pressure in the tanks, that could - and should - have been taken to do the work safely."

She added that "a little thought beforehand" would have prevented the tragedy, noting that the key in any maintenance work is to isolate any sources of energy before starting.

Expert Opinion
This tragic accident at work is a stark reminder of the risks employees are exposed to on a daily basis if the latest health and safety regulations are not complied with by employers. It is vital this incident, where one man lost his life and three of his colleagues were seriously injured, acts as a reminder to employers to take their responsibility for the health and safety of their workers seriously.

"In this case, it was found that the work being undertaken by those injured has not been planned correctly and no training had been given on how to conduct the task safely. We have seen first-hand the devastating impact an accident at work can have on employees and it is crucial measures are implemented to reduce the likelihood of incidents like this in the future.”
Stephen Nye, Partner