$300,000 penalty for leak caused by over-pressurisation after Airgas failed to update tank safety label
The deadly nitrogen leak at a Xytex cryopreservation unit in Georgia, which killed a local deputy sheriff and hospitalised several others in February has now led to fines of over $300,000 (£232,860) in civil penalties against the gas supplier Airgas. Georgia insurance and safety fire commissioner Ralph Hudgens released findings on 16 August indicating that the incident was caused by over-pressurisation of a bulk nitrogen storage tank, installed and owned by Airgas.
In January an Airgas service manager determined that the tank would require recalibration from 30psi to approximately 20psi. However, the tank’s servicing instruction label was never updated to reflect the new setting. Weeks later, Airgas delivered liquid nitrogen to the facility, filling it as instructed by the outdated label. The system became over-pressurised and started leaking nitrogen gas inside the building.
‘This industrial gas leak may have been avoided if the proper servicing [label] had been affixed to the bulk storage tank,’ Hudgens stated. ‘Either an employee not following through with the proper procedures or a lack of communication between the two companies led to this tragic event.’