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Defence company sentenced over explosion death

A defence company has been ordered to pay £376,000 in fines and costs for safety failings that caused a fatal explosion at its Hampshire factory in 2006.

Anthony Sheridan was emptying one of six industrial ovens used in the manufacture of military flares. The ovens contained high levels of nitroglycerin (NG) that exploded, destroying the factory building and killing Mr Sheridan. Several other workers were injured in the incident, with blast debris landing up to 600ft away.

Winchester Crown Court heard that the company had realised in 2004 that their process for curing pellets as part of the production of military flares produced the explosive chemical as a by-product.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that none of the company's senior management team or technical advisers were competent to deal with the NG issue, but did not seek external professional assistance.

Reviewing the company's procedures since NG was discovered in 2004, HSE found the company was not complying with the basics in explosive safety and failed to adhere to licensing requirements for the storage and processing of explosive substances. Their failure to properly assess and manage the risks put workers and the public in danger.

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