Human error factor in explosion

By Corey Charlton

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The explosion at Mayfair School was caused by cooking with the pot stand supports facing downward, heating the butane gas canister housed within the stove and blowing it up.

Directions on the product warn not to do so and the resulting explosion on Tuesday burnt the arm of a parent. She was taken to Hawke's Bay Hospital with moderates injuries and discharged later that day.

The portable cooker was used as part of an outdoor education exercise where students would create their own meat patties which parents would cook.

Mayfair School principal Tanya Bunny acknowledged there had been an element of human error but said there was a "strong possibility" of product fault due to the risks posed by misuse of the equipment.

"The exercise for the children was that they designed and created their meat patties, and then the parent helpers cooked them as part of an outdoor education week," she said. "I met with board representatives in the afternoon and we've undertaken a review of safety procedures when cooking at school, and I [have] already made the changes needed to keep everybody safe so that this doesn't happen again."

The school had removed from use all cookers of that particular type, and in future staff were to set up all cooking situations.

"We really appreciate our parent helpers... We do not want this experience to prevent our children from experiencing the importance of outdoor education."

Fire Risk Management Officer Mike Finucane said there had been similar incidents reported nationally and the Fire Service was in discussions with Energy Safety Services (ESS) regarding the product.

He confirmed there were a combination of factors that led to the explosion.

"There has been some issues with the same device in other parts of the country... So the Fire Service is working with ESS to identify the problem and also to seek a resolution, basically."

The explosions resulting from the overheating of the gas canister were known to create fire balls and cause severe burns. "In light of witnesses' descriptions and what was evident at the scene she was very lucky," Mr Finucane said. "Lucky that she or others weren't standing in direct contact."

He said there were a large number of the portable gas canister cookers on the market and people should be careful to follow the instructions as directed.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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