Dad killed in Sheffield explosion – inquest concludes

Chesterfield Cylinders on Meadowhall where a man died in an industrial accident
Chesterfield Cylinders on Meadowhall where a man died in an industrial accident

A father died after an explosion at A Sheffield factory – following confusion surrounding the use of a combustible material, an inquest found.

John Townsend, aged 64, of Ashleigh Avenue, Gleadless, had worked as a maintenance engineer at Chesterfield Special Cylinders Limited, Meadowhall Road, for several years before the fatal accident happened on June 10 last year.

Sheffield Coroner’s Court heard Mr Townsend had been carrying out a leak test on number of cylinders.

He had filled the eight cylinders with high pressure gas and was in the process of venting them, having found no evidence of leaks, when the explosion occurred.

He was struck by a metal shard and died at the scene shortly afterwards.

The firm – ‘a world-leading provider of bespoke, high-pressure gas containment solutions’ – produces cylinders for a range of clients in differnet sizes, with contain the pressure of between 100 and 200 times that of a car tyre, sometimes 500.

The inquest heard Mr Townsend had added an anti-corrosive agent called vaporol in to the cylinders after the leak testing process – a request by the customer.

There was no evidence to suggest a risk assessment had been carried out in relation to the use of the substance.

The six-day jury inquest heard evidence from Mr Townsend’s work colleagues, doctors and scientists.

Colleagues said there was confusion about how much vaporol to add to the cylinders – and when to do so.

The jury of seven women and one man took just under four hours to consider the evidence before returning a narrative verdict.

The narrative verdict said: “The expert witness identified vaporol as the only fuel present to cause such an event.”

It added: “The lack of risk assessment on the use of vaporol and confusion as to the quantity and application led to a substance build up of oil.

“This resulted in a rapid increase in pressure and heat, reacting with the oil vapours, which ignited and caused an explosion, fracturing the pipe.

“Shrapnel from the pipe hit Mr Townsend, causing fatal injuries.”

Addressing Mr Townsend’s family, including his wife Lynn, assistant coroner Louise Slater said: “Everybody has spoken very highly of Mr Townsend.

“I would like to give you my personal condolences, as well as all staff at the coroner’s court. These are tragic circumstances.”