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HSE admits to breaching safety rules in laboratory accident

12 December 2017

Following an accident at the Health and Safety Executive's (HSE) laboratory facility in Buxton, Derbyshire, it has accepted a Crown Censure.

The incident occurred in October last year, during a test on a prototype hydrogen storage vessel to determine whether it would be suitable for its intended use, according to SHP magazine.

When a connector failed during the process to fill the vessel, a quantity of hydrogen escaped under pressure and ignited, resulting in a worker standing nearby sustaining serious burns.

An investigation conducted by HM Inspectors of Health and Safety resulted in a Crown Improvement Notice being served on the HSE, requiring it to provide a safe system of work for proof and leak testing an assembled hydrogen line and test tank.

The investigation found that the pressure test failed due to lack of assessment, planning, management and control of the operation.

It also reported that the incident could have been avoided if recognised, longstanding control measures had been implemented.

The HSE complied with the notice and the injured employee has returned to work.

HM Inspectors of Health and Safety director of field operations Samantha Peace said the HSE had fallen "below the required standard" in its responsibility as an employer.

She further stated that the "Crown Censure is the right course of action.

"HSE has co-operated fully with the investigation and we are satisfied that action has been taken to put matters right," said Ms Peace.

HSE chief executive Richard Judge said his organisation "very much" regretted the incident and the injuries to a colleague.

He admitted that the organisation had not met "the standards we expect of others" and said the HSE accepted the Crown Censure.

This is the maximum sanction that a government body can receive and although it is an official record of a failure to meet legal standards, there is no financial penalty involved, as government organisations do not face prosecution in the same way as private or commercial organisations, SHP reported.

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