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Garage worker killed

07 September 2011

A Scottish garage has been fined after one of its workers was fatally injured when a metal oil drum he was working on exploded.

Martyn Massie
Martyn Massie

Martyn Massie, 23, was cutting a metal drum that had previously stored used engine oil at the premises of Pitmachie Garage Ltd, in Insch.

Massie was using a plasma cutter to remove the lid from the drum. As the blade started to cut through the metal, it generated a shower of sparks that ignited the flammable vapours inside the drum. The drum exploded, causing the lid to strike Massie on the head, knocking him unconscious.

He was airlifted to hospital with multiple head injuries that were unsurvivable and he died the following morning.

A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found that the cutting operation had not been properly risk assessed by Pitmachie Garage Ltd. The drum had not been completely emptied of waste engine oil, and this would have been contaminated with petrol, causing the drum to be filled with petrol vapours.

The investigation also found that the system of work employed for cutting the drum was such that a lack of information, instruction and training resulted in the worker using an unsafe method to carry out the task.

Although workers at the garage apparently knew that the used engine oil could be contaminated with fuel, they were not fully aware of the dangers of using a heat source such as the plasma cutter to remove the drum lid.

At Banff Sheriff Court this week, Pitmachie Garage Ltd. of Insch, Aberdeenshire, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Etc Act 1974 and was fined £15,000.

After the hearing, HSE Inspector Joanne Nicholls said: "Drums that have contained flammable material and seem to be empty often still have residues in them. Just a teaspoon of petrol can be enough to cause an explosion. This incident was entirely foreseeable, and could and should have been avoided. It was not essential for the drum lid to be removed at all, and in asking him to do so, Pitmachie Garage Ltd. failed to protect Martyn Massie; costing him his life.

"The company failed to provide a safe system of work which included cleaning and checking the drum prior to work starting, and using a cold cutting method. If Pitmachie Garage Ltd had taken steps to identify what hazards there were in cutting the oil drums, and ensured that their workers had the right information and training to do the work safely, this incident would never have happened."

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