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Pie firm fined £250,000 over fatal Huddersfield factory blast

A PIE factory has been ordered to pay almost £375,000 for breaching health and safety regulations after a supervisor died in a huge explosion.

Devastating gas explosion at Andrew Jones pie factory

A PIE factory has been ordered to pay almost £375,000 for breaching health and safety regulations after a supervisor died in a huge explosion.

Dad-of-two David Cole, 37, arrived at Andrew Jones (Pies) Ltd in on Old Leeds Road in Huddersfield at 3.30am on April 10, 2009, and tried to light the ovens ready for when other employees arrived at 5am - but after making repeated attempts to light one, gas built up inside the directly fired oven, causing the blast.

The Health and Safety Executive carried out an investigation of the premises and confirmed that the accident had occurred due to Mr Cole making repeatedm unsuccessful attempts to light the oven.

Judge Guy Kearl, QC, told York Crown Court today that the company "failed to give basic training to its employees and there was no risk assessment given to stop an employee trying to light the oven more than once".

He said: "Employees were not made aware of the written instructions about how to operate the ovens.

"The company failed dismally and these failures substantially led to the death of Mr Cole.

"The explosion blew out the windows of the building and Mr Cole was killed in it.

"Mr Cole was not to blame and this was an ongoing situation rather than an isolated incident."

The company, which had been carrying out business since 2005, was charged in August 2012 after going into administration 15 months earlier.  

The assets of Andrew Jones (Pies) Ltd have since been sold to a new company called AJ Pies and Pastries Ltd, which have retained the same staff.

The company was charged with three counts between April 26, 2007 and April 10, 2009, namely failing to make suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks of the use of natural gas in the oven, failing to ensure adequate health and safety information and written instructions for using the oven were available to their employees, and failing to ensure employees were adequately trained in using the oven.

Judge Kearl QC fined the company £250,000 and ordered them to pay costs of £124,896.72 pounds with £180,709.88 pounds of the total to be paid to the Health and Safety Executive.

At an earlier hearing, a jury unanimously found Andrew Jones (Pies) Ltd guilty on all counts after considering their verdict for under ten minutes.

John Harrison, prosecuting, told a jury that the severity of the explosion was "amplified" by the failure of the explosion relief panel - which failed to open and allow explosive gasses to vent because the original pins had been replaced with high tensile steel bolts.      

He told the court that on April 10, Mr Cole was one of two supervisors at the premises. His first job was to light the ovens and get them to the required temperature but on this occasion oven number one would not light.

He said: "The operating instructions for the ovens suggest that two attempts should be made to light an oven. If the oven fails to light after two attempts, the engineer should be called.

"It appears that on this occasion Mr Cole made repeated attempts to light number one oven. Another employee heard the oven bell alarm ringing repeatedly from about 4am."

The prosecutor said Mr Cole, of Halifax, tried to contact the bakery manager at 4.21am and 10 minutes later, other employees arriving for work could smell gas from their position outside the premises.

The court heard Mr Cole came outside and told others that one of the ovens would not light and that he had telephoned his manager. The alarm bell continued to sound and Mr Cole went back inside.

Just before 5am, an employee went back into the premises to ask Mr Cole to turn off the alarm. He saw that Mr Cole had removed part of the front panel on number one oven and was using switches inside the casing.

"Mr Cole then turned off the alarm at the main switch on the control panel," said Mr Harrison.

"At the time of the explosion (the other employee) was in the pastry room when he heard a large bang and felt a shock wave come past him and blow out the windows of the building.

"He then climbed out of the windows, along with other employees, into the car park.

"He could see that a fire had started inside the building and shouted others to get out."

 

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