Death of dad in chemical plant explosion 'completely avoidable'

Rob Cranston

Robert Cranston pictured on a family holiday in the Dominican Republic - Credit: Cranston Family

The solicitor representing the family of a worker who was killed in an explosion at Briar Chemicals has described his death as "completely avoidable". 

Robert Cranston, 46, died in a blast at the chemical plant in Hellesdon on July 27 2018, while his son Owen was working alongside him.

They were part of a team replacing a steel ring on a large chemical tank and had not been told that it contained a flammable chemical.

The Cranston Family

Lewis, Owen and Robert Cranston - Credit: The Cranston Family

Robert was working on the tank using a grinder, causing sparks to fly. The inquest into his death, which concludes next week, heard they were not expecting any explosive material in the tank.

However, it contained remnants of a highly flammable chemical called Toluene which is used in paint thinners and TNT. 

Mr Cranston was taken to the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital but died later that day.

Briar Chemicals

Briar Chemicals in Norwich - Credit: Briar Chemicals

A report from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), read at the inquest, said the explosion was likely caused by the content of the chemical tank. 

The HSE report also found that it was not possible to check valves for leaks on the tank without breaking them. It also said the valves had failed previously and there was no way of monitoring the flammable Toluene in the tank

Briar Chemicals

Briar Chemicals in Norwich - Credit: Archant

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The family’s lawyer, Colin Cook, from Hatch Brenner Solicitors, said the family hoped the inquest’s verdict would prevent future accidents. 

He said the failings showed Mr Cranston's death was "completely avoidable".

Mr Cranston’s family said in a statement that they were “extremely close and rarely did anything without each other”. 

The Cranston Family

Lewis, Owen and Robert Cranston - Credit: The Cranston Family

The father-of-two was a keen sportsman and over 750 people attended his funeral at Norwich Cathedral. He married wife Claire in 2003 and they had been together for 25 years. They have two sons Lewis, 23, and Owen, 22.

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