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Catering supply firm fined £7,500 after hotel gas explosion

Catering supply firm fined £7,500 after hotel gas explosion

A Scottish catering supply company has been fined £7,500 after three people were seriously injured in a gas explosion at an Aberdeenshire hotel kitchen.

A barmaid, customer and a worker were caught in the blast, which happened as work was being carried out by Instant Catering Maintenance Ltd (ICM) on the gas system of the Drumtochty Arms in Auchenblae.

Aberdeen Sheriff Court heard that on the day of the incident, Danielle Ormond was working in the hotel bar when one of the customers complained about the beer, which led her to go to the cellar to investigate.

As she passed through the kitchen, where ICM employee Neil Coffield was purging the gas system, she noticed a very strong smell of gas.

The explosion occurred moments later, causing serious injuries to both Ormond and Coffield and also to a customer, James Guthrie, who was in the courtyard outside the kitchen door smoking a cigarette.

Following the incident, on 7 January 2009, it was reported that the hotel had only just re-opened following a year-long refurbishment when the explosion blew the roof off and also destroyed the walls of an adjacent two-storey building.

It has since been revealed that the damage caused by the blast led to the immediate collapse of a substantial part of the building, making it unsafe for investigators from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to enter and leading to an emergency demolition order by Aberdeenshire Council.

Instant Catering Maintenance Limited of Union Street, Aberdeen, was fined £7,500 after pleading guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

After sentencing, HSE principal inspector Niall Miller said: "This was an entirely avoidable, very serious incident resulting in significant injuries to three people and the demolition of a building.

"The risks of purging an LPG gas system without using the appropriate equipment are well known and it is clearly stated in industry guidance that flare stacks should be used when dealing with gases heavier than air, such as propane. In addition, purging a system of this type should be carried out by two people to ensure safety."

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