Explosion at Halifax Primary School

It could have been a lot worse

Posted on: 09/06/2015   By: Lee Rance

The HSE has recently fined Marshall Gas Services Ltd after they admitted a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The company must pay nearly £50,000 over safety failings that led to an explosion at a school in Halifax.

The company had been on site at the Greetland Academy on the day of the explosion to service three boilers and other gas appliances, a contract they had held for at least ten years. The explosion, luckily, happened the day before the children returned to school. Although there were teaching staff on the premises attending a teaching training day, fortunately no-one was hurt.

EX imageThe explosion blew out the boiler house door toward a paved area and the school playing field. If the children had been at school it was very likely that there would have been injuries.

The HSE gas specialists found that the boiler showed signs of poor maintenance, including excessive rust and debris, and had become increasingly dangerous. The burners produced a significant amount of internal corrosion and the gas injectors were very dirty, which significantly reduced the aperture size. The restricted gas injectors prevented sufficient gas getting to some of the burners to allow them to be cross-lit when turned on. Unburned gas then passed into a combustion chamber and created an explosive atmosphere. This evidence showed that the degradation of the boilers had occurred over time and the condition of the boilers were not consistent with regular annual servicing.

HSE inspector Jackie Ferguson said: “This was an entirely preventable incident. It was pure luck no children were around at the time as the boiler house was close to the school playing field and access routes for staff and pupils alike.

“Marshall Gas Services displayed a reckless disregard for the safety of the community, and these young children in particular, and the outcome could have been far worse.

“On the wider issue, all companies who carry out gas work must comply with their legal duties and responsibilities. Experience has shown that some operating in the gas sector are prepared to breach regulations by undertaking gas work while not on the statutory register and without the necessary competency. There are also instances of registered engineers operating outside the scope of their competency.

“HSE will continue to undertake effective regulation and enforcement of this industry where we find negligence and safety failings.”

Until next time.

Lee Rance.