Yorkshire manufacturer fined more than £869,000 by Health and Safety Executive in fatal accident case

A Sheffield-based engineering company has been fined upwards of £869,000 after it was found at guilt for a workplace accident that killed Unite member, John Townsend.

The 64-year-old member died in June 2015 while working at the Chesterfield Special Cylinders factory, a subsidiary of multi-national group Pressure Technologies. He was testing the pressure on the cylinders in the factory, which involved heating them up. However, a flammable substance known as Vaporol – used to reduce levels of corrosion – was present within the cylinders and was inadvertently heated to the point of ignition.

This caused an explosion that fired a shard of metal at Mr Townsend, killing him.

At Sheffield Crown Court, evidence was provided to show that an internal assessment in 2014 – a year before Mr Townsend’s death – highlighted the need to follow a specific sequence when testing the cylinders. Despite this, our member was never informed of this protocol.

The court agreed with the argument of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and Unite Legal Services. The judgment ordered Pressure Technologies to pay a fine of £700,000, in addition to more than £169,000 in legal costs.

Commenting at the hearing, Mr Townsend’s daughter, Louise, said: “There’s no way to describe the anguish our family faced after we lost dad. It’s been a battle to come to terms with him being taken from us so abruptly, and also to understand how he was left exposed to the risks he was that led to his death.

“No financial penalty – however great – can fill the hole left in our hearts, but knowing that Pressure Technologies has been held to account does offer the family some sense of closure.

“We are very grateful to my dad’s union, Unite, who worked hard to make sure Pressure Technologies were held to account, and I’d urge anyone who isn’t already a member to join a union. They were there when we needed them and if it wasn’t for pressure from Unite, we’d still be waiting for answers.”