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6th July 2022

Carlsberg Fined £3 Million After Fatality

Inside a brewery

What’s Happened?

Carlsberg has recently been fined a whopping £3 million after a contractor died and another was seriously injured following an ammonia gas leak at one of its breweries.

This case highlights the importance of ensuring appropriate coordination and cooperation when appointing contractors to undertake works on your site. Both the client (Carlsberg) and the Principal Contractor hold clear duties in this regard as this case demonstrates.

Use of Contractors

The Principal Contractor for the project was a company called Crowley Carbon UK Ltd, which had appointed numerous contractors to assist in the works.

The incident happened at Carlsberg’s site in Northampton. An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found Carlsberg hadn’t put proper controls in place to ensure the plant was safely isolated before working on it.

Specifically – there were inadequate appropriate isolation measures implemented to prevent exposure to ammonia during the removal of a compressor from a refrigeration system, as a result when the compressor was being removed, there was a large, uncontrolled release of ammonia.

Twenty people needed hospital checks after showing symptoms of ammonia exposure at the site. It was several days before the leak was contained and gas levels dropped to a safe level. Unfortunately, one operator was seriously injured as a result.

In Court

Carlsberg Supply Company UK Ltd, (who were summonsed under their new company name of Carlsberg Marston’s Brewing Company), pleaded guilty to charges under Section 2(1) and Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, and Regulation 3(1) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. The company was fined £3 million with legal costs of £90,000.

The HSE principal inspector involved in the case said: “Industry guidance on safe isolation of plant should have been followed. This would have ensured that a higher level of isolation was in place, for prevention of exposure to this highly toxic and flammable substance.

“Both the client, Carlsberg, and the Principal Contractor should have worked together to ensure that the risk was adequately managed. Not only Carlsberg has a duty here. There was also a very clear duty on the Principal Contractor.

“This underlines the dangers of not following industry guidance when working with toxic and flammable substances – HSE will take action against all who fail to ensure the safety of employees and others who may be exposed to danger.

“Projects involving multiple contractors require effective management arrangements, so it’s clear who is responsible for every part of the work and that safety checks are carried out before allowing work to start.”

Appoint Lighthouse As Your Health & Safety Competent Person

The competent person role does not have to be fulfilled internally within every company. You can, therefore, outsource the appointment to a contractor or consultancy with the necessary qualifications and experience.

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