Stephen Hampton inquest: ‘Inadequate’ risk assessment contributed to demolition worker’s death in Swain’s Lane, jury finds

Flowers at the site of Stephen Hampton's death in Swain's Lane. Picture: Nathalie Raffray

Flowers at the site of Stephen Hampton's death in Swain's Lane. Picture: Nathalie Raffray - Credit: Archant

Stephen Hampton died as a result of cutting a former fuel tank with an oxyacetylene torch, igniting gases inside, a jury has found.

Giving the verdict at St Pancras Coroner’s Court this afternoon, the foreman said the risks were “not highlighted, which led to an inadequate risk assessment and method statement”.

The 54-year-old demolition site supervisor was working on the former petrol station site in Swain’s Lane, Highgate on March 16 2017.

In their verdict, members of the jury found the site was “complicated [...] which was reflected by concerns which were made by neighbours”.

They also found there was “uncertainty” around the contents of the tank.

After hearing nearly two weeks of evidence, they said it was also unclear who was responsible for safe working processes on the site.

On the day, Stephen had cut into the tank, which was divided into separate compartments. When he had cut into the third section, the torch ignited the gases, causing a “failure” in its end plate, the inquest heard.

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The jury gave a narrative verdict.

On Monday, Oliver Swain – director of the demolition company Material Movements Limited (MML), which had been working on the site – told the court he had never heard of “hot cutting” being used on fuel tanks.

Instead it should have been drained by a specialist company and crushed, he said.

Mr Swain added: “What Steve did was down to Steve. There was no description of what he was doing in the method statement.

“Steve’s actions were foolhardy at best. I have never heard of a fuel tank being hot cut like this before.”

In his evidence he also said the building site didn’t have a site manager.

Addressing the court this afternoon, senior coroner Mary Hassell said she had considered issuing a Prevention of Future Deaths notice, but didn’t believe it would be helpful.