A WORKER played ‘Russian roulette’ every time he filled a gas bottle at his place of work, a court heard.

And 30-year-old Luke Hawthorn’s luck ran out when one of the bottles used in the pub trade exploded and flying metal ripped through his leg, which later had to be amputated.

Magistrates heard he was taken by air ambulance to hospital and at the time of the incident witnesses said they felt the ground shake at the force of the explosion.

Other workers were also injured in the explosion at J and R Gases depot at Brunswick Street, Nelson.

Yesterday the firm was fined £40,000 and must pay almost £6,000 costs after it admitted exposing Mr Hawthorn to risk of death in a prosecution brought by the Health and Safety Executive.

District judge Jeff Brailsford sitting at Blackpool Magistrates Court heard how the firm, which has a turnover of £1.4million-a-year, had not given proper training to the victim.

The company, which supplies gas bottles to pubs, clubs and hotels throughout the north and refills up to 500 bottles a day, pleaded guilty to failing to discharge health, safety and welfare duties to an employee.

Judge Brailsford said: “This was a very serious injury.

“I have read the victim’s statement and it is very moving. His injuries were life-changing. It is my position that the training given to Mr Hawthorn was inadequate.

“The likelihood of harm was high and some simple checks could have reduced that risk.”

Prosecutor Charlotte Atherton said that in 2015 Mr Hawthorn was a general worker at the firm.

He had no previous experience in filling bottles and was reliant on his employers for training and supervision.

She said: “As he filled a bottle it exploded. His right leg was burned and broken and his left leg had to be amputated below the knee.

“It is our case that the company failed to assess the risks and failed to implement safety and work training issues.”

The court heard that the probable cause of the explosion was fluid left in the highly pressurised gas bottle which caused cracks in the metal.

She said that Mr Hawthorn had been asked to re-fill gas bottles as a cover worker and that since his accident bottles were checked for problems every five years and not 10 years as had been been the case.

Ms Atherton said: “Every time he filled a cylinder he was at high risk, it was Russian roulette for him. He had only worked there four months and had no competency in the filling process.

“He was trained at a very shallow level.”

Mark Balysz, defending, told the judge that a civil settlement had already been reached between J and R Gases and their insurers with Mr Hawthorn.

Mark Balysz said: “ The prosecution paints a very dark picture of the company but it was following British Standards advice. However by admitting this offence they admit putting this member of staff at risk of death.

“Apart from this failure the firm had good safety systems in place.

“It already has an agreement in place to pay the Health and Safety Executive £33,000 for costs outside this hearing.”

Speaking after the trial, HSE inspector Steven Boyd, said: “Robust pre-fill checks of high pressure cylinders should be undertaken before they are filled and workers must be informed of this.

“The injured worker should have received adequate training, instruction and supervision to be able to carry out their work safely but the company failed to fully do this. As a result, a person has been left with life-changing injuries.”

No one from J and R Gases was available to comment.