Rackheath gas blast caused by human error, report finds

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Media caption Nobody is to be prosecuted over the explosion

An explosion that badly damaged a Norfolk industrial estate was caused by a gas cylinder switched on in error, an investigation has found.

A cafe was destroyed and other buildings damaged at Rackheath Industrial Estate on 12 January 2011.

A valve on a liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) cylinder had been switched on, despite not being connected to any kitchen equipment at the cafe.

Nobody was hurt in the blast and no criminal prosecution will be brought.

The report by Broadland District Council found the lease to KC's Kafe had been sold three weeks before the blast.

The new leaseholder mistakenly believed some kitchen appliances were fuelled by LPG and so ordered supplies from an unnamed "recognised reputable national" company.

A driver delivered a full 47kg (104lb) gas cylinder at about 13:00 GMT on the day of the blast and opened the control valve, failing to notice pipes from the cylinder were not connected to any appliances.

The leaseholder could smell gas, but left for home at about 15:00 GMT, having not resolved the problem.

'Tighter controls'

The explosion, which took place at 21:10, is thought to have been caused by gas being ignited by a spark from switchgear in electrical equipment inside the kitchen.

The industrial estate was largely unoccupied at the time of the blast, and the report says it was "incredible" that no-one was hurt.

The investigation into the explosion was led by Broadland Council, which worked with the Health and Safety Executive, Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service and other investigators.

John Fisher, the council's portfolio folder for environmental excellence, said: "We concluded that a prosecution was not appropriate in this case.

"Instead, the Health and Safety Executive has advised the gas supply company to review its procedures.

"We are also supporting their efforts to ensure that tighter codes of practice and guidance are developed nationally to deal with safety issues which affect the industry as a whole."

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