Carlsberg brewery firm fined £3 million over fatal ammonia leak

The company operating Northampton’s Carlsberg brewery has been fined £3 million over an ammonia leak which killed one worker and badly hurt another.

David Chandler, 45, died after an “explosive release” of gas, which left around 20 others needing treatment, at the site in November 2016.

Birmingham Crown Court was told Mr Chandler’s colleague David Beak suffered burns to his lungs and throat and was admitted to intensive care after the leak, which took six days to contain, in a refrigeration plant.

Northampton-based Carlsberg Supply Company UK Ltd, which is now called CMBC Supply Ltd, pleaded guilty to three breaches of health and safety laws at Birmingham Magistrates’ Court in March 2020.

Had appropriate isolations been in place… the incident would not have occurred

Mr Justice Picken

Passing sentence on Tuesday, High Court judge Mr Justice Picken said: “Carlsberg admits these failings, specifically a failure to ensure the health and safety, so far as was reasonably practicable, of employees and non-employees alike.

“In this case, the material risk – the possibility of harm – to which employees and non-employees were exposed was the risk to health and safety from the possible escape of ammonia.

“A large number of people were exposed to that risk. Had appropriate isolations been in place… the incident would not have occurred.”

The judge, who also made a costs order for £90,000, added: “It is not in dispute that this is a case where the level of culpability is properly to be regarded as high.”

But the judge said the company had taken steps to remedy deficiencies, shown a high level of co-operation, and “not only has no previous convictions but has a positively good health and safety record” at the site.

Mr Chandler, from Bridgnorth, Shropshire, had two daughters, who are now aged 11 and seven.

At the start of his sentencing remarks, the judge said he had the opportunity to consider “very moving” victim impact statements by Mr Chandler’s wife, Laura, his sister, Alison Bennett, as well as the statement from Mr Beak.

“I wish to pay tribute to each of them for the dignity which they have shown in saying what they have said,” the judge said.

All remedial measures have since been taken and lessons learnt. As a company, we will continue to put health and safety at the forefront of how we operate

Paul Davies, Carlsberg Supply Company UK

In her statement to the court, Mrs Chandler said she and her daughters missed Mr Chandler every day and “every proud moment or milestone” now “has a gap that no one can fill”.

Mr Chandler’s father “never recovered” from his son’s death and died around a year later, the court was told.

Mr Justice Picken added: “I take all of this into account in deciding on the appropriate sentence in this case. In doing so, I am acutely aware that no sentence can bring Mr Chandler back.”

In a statement issued after the sentencing,  Paul Davies, the CEO of Carlsberg Supply Company UK Ltd, said: “We deeply regret the tragic incident which occurred at our Northampton brewery in November 2016 and resulted in the death of David Chandler and injury to David Beak.

“Our thoughts to this day remain with the families, friends and colleagues of those involved.

“We strive to attain and maintain the highest standards of health and safety management for our employees. Through our guilty plea to the charges and much earlier acceptance of responsibility, we recognise that on this occasion we did not meet these high standards.

“All remedial measures have since been taken and lessons learnt. As a company, we will continue to put health and safety at the forefront of how we operate.”


Douglas Mateo

Douglas holds a position as a content writer at Neptune Pine. His academic qualifications in journalism and home science have offered her a wide base from which to line various topics. He has a proficiency in scripting articles related to the Health industry, including new findings, disease-related, or epidemic-related news. Apart from this, Douglas writes an independent blog and assists people in living healthy life.