Sheffield scrapyard worker ‘killed by flying gas cylinder’

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A SHEFFIELD scrapyard worker died of horrific head injuries after he was hit by part of a gas cylinder which shot out of a machine while being compressed by mistake, an inquest heard.

Anthony Johnson, aged 55, died three hours after he was struck in the face by half of a carbon dioxide cylinder hidden inside a batch of metal being crushed at the Walter Heselwood scrapyard, Attercliffe.

Jurors at Sheffield Coroner’s Court heard there was a ‘loud bang’ when the black cylinder - used in pubs to provide fizz for soft drinks - exploded in the shear-baler machine and Mr Johnson was spotted lying on the floor fatally injured moments later.

Mr Johnson, of Toppham Road, Lowedges, was responsible for checking deliveries of metal at the yard for unsuitable items before they were placed in the Taurus shear-baler.

The equipment compressed metal into cubes before chopping it into 2ft lengths.

Plant operator Steve Shaw told the jury he was loading metal into the machine using a crane when the accident happened on June 19, 2009, at about 11am.

Mr Shaw, 59, said: “As I was sat there working I heard a loud bang.

“I looked down to my left and saw a large white puff of powder.

“I found out later it was probably liquid turning into gas.

“As I looked behind me I saw Mr Johnson laid on the floor in a spread-eagled position, face down. I could see he was seriously injured.”

Mr Shaw said he immediately radioed for an ambulance to be called, adding the cylinder must have been ejected ‘with tremendous force’.

“It went a further 100ft down the scrapyard” he said.

“It struck a forklift truck and did quite a bit of damage, then glanced off to the left and went straight through a lorry bumper.”

Jurors heard the cylinder was hidden in an aluminium water tank filled with metal, which Mr Johnson asked him to load into the shear-baler.

Mr Shaw added customers sometimes used objects such as gas cylinders to bulk out the weight of their scrap and earn more money.

“People that bring these things in make it as hard as they can for you to examine the scrap.

“They know these cylinders shouldn’t be in there, but they probably don’t think they may kill somebody.

“When it gets really busy you’re under pressure to get the scrap moved and the next customer in.”

Mr Shaw also described Mr Johnson as a ‘good worker’ and a ‘grand bloke’.

The inquest continues.