Pontypridd-based Gaspack Services has received fines totalling £90,000 following a workplace accident in which an employee lost his leg as the result of a gas explosion in March 2010.
Andrew Wright, an employee of Guardian Gas in Bridgend, was carrying out a task that involved filling gas cylinders with a combination of nitrogen and carbon dioxide to prepare them for use in the drinks industry. When he began to disconnect the hose attachment used to fill a gas cylinder, a fault caused it to explode.
The blast resulted in Mr Wright's leg being severed below the knee and he consequently had to have it amputated above the joint.
Since the accident, Mr Wright has been unable to return to work.
Work Accident Investigation
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) was called in to investigate the explosion to determine how it might have happened.
It was found that the faulty cylinder was one of several sent by Guardian Gas to certified inspection body Gaspack. The cylinders had been tested with regard to safety and deemed fine to use for the next ten years.
However, the HSE discovered that Gaspack had failed to carry out a thorough internal check on this particular cylinder and had not used a specialist technique to remove corrosion, cracks and other flaws on the top third of the vessel, despite a large crack and extensive rust being visible there.
Other gas cylinders sent to be inspected by Gaspack were in a similar condition, with such high levels of rust that an internal examination of the vessel would not have been able to take place, as any damage and cracks located on the top third of them were more than likely hidden.
In addition to this, Gaspack was found to have significant shortcomings with regard to its procedures, communication, supervision of tasks and monitoring of work.
HSE inspector Alan Strawbridge said, "Any cylinder inspection body must ensure accurate procedures are in place, employees have access to information and instructions to help them do the job properly and a system of training, supervision, monitoring and auditing is rigorously enforced."
Earlier this week, Gaspack, which has its headquarters at Pontypridd's Gelli-Hirion Industrial Estate, was formally prosecuted by the HSE at Cardiff Crown Court, with the Judge ordering the firm to pay a £30,000 fine, plus an additional £60,000 in legal costs.
Gaspack pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, which refers to the employer's responsibility to ensure every measure is taken to guarantee that members of staff are kept as safe as possible while at work.
Mr Strawbridge concluded, "People using gas cylinders are almost entirely reliant on the inspection body carrying out its duties thoroughly. Gaspack failed in its duty to ensure that the public were not put at risk because of the poor quality of its inspections.
"Gaspack's failure to properly inspect the cylinders meant a critical flaw went undetected. This cylinder later exploded, causing Mr Wright's severe injuries and leg amputation, which could easily have claimed his life."