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Health and safety - essential for saving lives

View profile for Kim Daniells
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Health and safety - essential for saving lives

An inquest into the death of an engineer killed by an ammonia leak at a brewery has concluded.  David Chandler, from Bridgnorth, Shropshire, died at the Carlsberg plant in Northampton on 9 November 2016.

The 45-year-old died after inhaling ammonia, having been exposed to a "sudden release" of gas.  The inquest concluded that the death was accidental.  The jury concluded that the leak from a valve on a compressor was "preventable".

The inquest heard evidence from a representative of the Health and Safety Executive who found that an isolation valve had not been closed.  Evidence suggested that Carlsberg had not carried out a risk assessment.

Mr Chandler had been working as a subcontractor at the time to remove a dormant compressor unit.  The coroner was critical of the risk assessment, method statement and permit to work system in place at the time.

Deaths in the workplace occur less frequently than in the past.  This is partly because, for many, the workplace is not an inherently dangerous environment.  However in sectors of industry such as manufacturing, construction and agriculture, reductions in workplace deaths have tended to reflect improvements in safety regulation, management  and enforcement.

It is sometimes the case that  a "health and safety culture" is blamed  for restrictions on day-to-day activity or personal freedoms.  Where those restrictions are manifestly oppressive, this is often simply a consequence of people misunderstanding the level of risk and misinterpreting what is required of them. Where safety and risk assessment procedures exist, they are intended, simply,  to prevent injury and to save lives.

In the tragic case of Mr Chandler, who left a wife and two children, there appear to have been a succession of problems.  Procedures that were followed were not accurate and detailed enough to provide a safe system within which Mr Chandler could work.

It is a sad reality that if appropriate steps had been taken, then Mrs Chandler and her family would not be facing a future without a husband and father.