Cotswold Airport faces health and safety case for fire chief Steve Mills' death

Gazette Series: Malmesbury retained firefighter and former fire chief at Cotswold Airport Steve Mills Malmesbury retained firefighter and former fire chief at Cotswold Airport Steve Mills

A COTSWOLD airport company's failure to assess health and safety risks contributed to the death of its fire chief three years ago, a jury was told yesterday.

Steve Mills, 45, was killed on April 8, 2011, when a giant gas cylinder suddenly discharged and hit him on the head as he was moving it at the former Kemble Airfield.

The cylinder was designed to pump a heavy gas into a sprinkler system if fire broke out in areas where electronic equipment was used, Gloucester crown court was told.

Prosecutor Simon Morgan said that at the time of the tragedy the airport company had not properly assessed risks of the cylinders or the way they were stored.

There had been no assessment, either, of how the five foot high cylinders should be safely moved, he told the jury.

And he showed the jury the company's health and safety risk assessment manual which existed before Mr Mills' death - and how it has been revised since.

"If you compare and contrast the two documents we say it can be seen that they have properly learnt from their failure and their change in procedures." he said.

"That, we say, is important because it will lessen risks in the future.

"But we also say the fact that they have altered their procedures so dramatically of itself almosty establishes that the document which applied to healh and safety in April 2011 was deficient and you may think wholly inadequate.

"The distinction between the two documents highlights that feature."

Mr Morgan showed the jury the brass valve from the cylinder which killed him and pointed out that a safety cap had not been fitted at the time, The cylinder was designed to empty itself in a matter of seconds so suppress fires and that was what happened when it hit Mr Mills, he said.

As things stood three years ago there was nothing at the airport to tell Mr Mills how to move the cylinder safely, and nothing to identify the hazards of the gas inside, he said.

"The information available said nothing of the equipment to be used to dismantle the cylinders and nothing of the protective equipment available.

"There was nothing to tell you if the cylinders were full or empty. Some of the cylinder safety caps were missing but there was nothing to tell you how that deficiency could be rectified.

"There were just no instructions on how to handle the cylinder."

"The Crown say that the company failed and that the company's failing contributed to Mr Mills' death.

"They had the power and indeed the duty to assess the situation. A proper assessment would have prevented or reduced the risk of death or serious injury."

The company denies failing to make suitable and sufficient risk assessments of the danger to both employees and non employees at the aerodrome.

The trial is continuing today.

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