Sheffield firm fined for gas death

Brian Wilkins
Brian Wilkins

Sheffield steel firm Forgemasters has been fined £120,000 for health and safety breaches after a foundry worker was gassed to death.

Brian Wilkins, aged 48, of Nethershire Lane, Shiregreen, died almost instantly after a carbon dioxide fire extinguisher system was activated in the cellar where he was working, flooding it with the poisonous gas.

Sheffield Crown Court heard that an alarm system, which would have warned Mr Wilkins the extinguisher was about to go off, failed to work.

Prosecutor Jason Pitter said Mr Wilkins - a father of three grown-up sons - had been cutting up high voltage cables in a switchroom using a petrol-powered saw when the fire extinguisher activated in 2008.

Mr Pitter said other members of staff who rushed to his aid also suffered from the effects of breathing in carbon dioxide.

Forgemasters admitted breaching health and safety legislation by failing to carry out an adequate risk assessment, failing to write a method statement, failing to provide and enforce training, and failing to provide emergency rescue arrangements.

Judge Julian Goose QC said: “Brian Wilkins was carrying out his job at the factory in Brightside Lane, Sheffield, when there was an accident in which he was killed.

“The company accepts it failed to discharge its duty to ensure the health and safety of Mr Wilkins and others.

“His death was not caused by the breach, but it was one of the factors which contributed to his death.”

Representatives from the firm were told they must pay the fine, plus costs of £125,000, within nine months.

After the hearing, Graham Honeyman, chief executive at Sheffield Forgemasters, said: “While Sheffield Forgemasters has accepted some health and safety breaches which occurred in 2008, it does not accept and has never accepted that its actions have caused or significantly contributed to the tragic death of Brian Wilkins.”