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Pie manufacturer guilty of blast that kills worker

By Lorraine Mullaney , 25-Feb-2013
Last updated on 25-Feb-2013 at 10:55 GMT

A Huddersfield pie manufacturer has been found guilty of health and safety breaches that killed a factory worker in a gas oven explosion.

Andrew Jones Pies was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) for an explosion that killed 37-year-old David Cole at the firm’s old Leeds Road factory on April 10 2009.

The man, from Halifax, had worked for the company for 12 years.

Speaking outside court, HSE principal inspector Kirsty Hirst said: “The tragic death of Mr Cole was devastating for his wife and family, and I hope today’s (February 22) guilty verdicts will help to provide a degree of closure.”

The jury at Leeds Crown Court unanimously found the manufacturer guilty on three counts last week. It had breached the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmosphere Regulations 2002 on one count and the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 on two counts.

The firm was ruled not to have done a suitable risk assessment of the gas ovens, to have failed to ensure adequate written instructions were available and to have failed to have given employees adequate training.

Build-up of gas

Prior to the court case, an HSE investigation had already established that the blast was caused by a build-up of gas caused by Mr Cole’s unsuccessful attempts to light the oven on the morning of April 10.

Hirst said: “The explosion could have been avoided if the correct lighting-up procedures had been followed. No more than two attempts to light the oven should have been made. If the oven still failed to light, engineers should have been called in.

“Large gas oven explosions are known, but rare. HSE issued a Safety Alert after this incident to similar companies asking them to check the explosion reliefs on all direct fired bakery ovens.”

The HSE investigation also revealed that one of the oven’s key safety features – an explosion relief panel that enables explosive gases to vent out of the back of the oven – had been secured with the incorrect bolts.

Risk assessment documents found on the premises made no mention of the ovens.

Manufacturer in administration

The pie manufacturer is now in administration and did not appear in court for the trial.

The judge has deferred the sentence while the court reviews the administrator’s financial records.

After the explosion Andrew Jones Pies got into difficulties and a turnaround expert Mike Mattok of Company Doctor was brought in on a rescue mission in March 2011.

When he had secured a rescue deal for the manufacturer in May 2011, Mattok told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “The legal procedures following the explosion consumed management time as well as the emotional angst caused in a close-knit company. There was also a delay in achieving sales contracts.”

As part of the rescue plan, the Andrew Jones Pies brand was bought and a new company created, which refers to itself as AJ Pies and Pasties. This is a separate company to the one that was on trial.

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