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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
This topic is to link reports of cannon accidents. We must always be aware of the dangers of shooting cannons and learn from accidents.

If you see a report of a cannon accident post it on the board and the moderators will link it to this post.

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Young Camp Counselor Killed When Cannon Bursts To Pieces

Camp Counslelor Killed when Cannon Bursts[/color]

Report has pictures, click on link about to see report.

Young camp counselor killed when cannon bursts to pieces
On August 1, 2003, a 16-year-old youth working as a camp counselor was fatally injured when a cannon he was attempting to fire exploded and burst into pieces. This cannon had been used during evening flag ceremonies at the camp for about three years.
On the evening of the incident, the victim set up the cannon as instructed and attempted to fire it during the flag ceremony, but the wind twice extinguished the touch stick used to fire the cannon. After the second attempt failed, the ceremony proceeded without the cannon, and everyone retired for the evening meal. The victim and another youth working as a counselor remained at the site to see why the cannon did not fire. They added a small amount of black powder to the touchhole and again attempted to fire the cannon. This time the cannon fired, and the explosion caused the cannon’s breech to burst into pieces. One fragment struck the victim in the head, fatally injuring him.
Cause of death: Traumatic injury to the brain
1. Develop written procedures to ensure the cannon is charged and fired by trained and knowledgeable persons, within the manufacturer’s operational specifications, and with specific misfire procedures.
2. Adult counselors should conduct the firing of black-powder cannons used at youth camps.
3. Youth should not be employed in positions that include the use or handling of explosive materials.
4. Use only solid steel or seamless steel-lined cast-iron cannons to fire black-powder charges.
5. Do not obstruct the bore when firing for ceremonial salutes.
6. Use the appropriate grade and quantity of black powder as designated for the cannon.
7. Inspect the gun tube regularly to detect signs of stress.
8. Periodically review processes to ensure continuing adherence to safe work practices. Key Words: Fire/Explosion, Youth OR FACE Report
Original Publication Date: August 16, 2004 OR2003-20R
Revised Publication Date: March 2, 2006 Page 1
On the evening of this fatal incident, the cannon was taken from its indoor storage location to its firing position, and the victim and another youth camp counselor prepared to fire the cannon at the flag ceremony as they had in the past. The adult black-powder instructor, responsible for supervising the appropriate use of the cannon, was on the field but not immediately supervising the procedure.
The two camp counselors poured a charge of black powder down the cannon’s muzzle from two 35 mm film canisters. The black powder used was usually a cannon grade, but at times camp staff would use finer, faster-burning grades intended for black-powder muskets and rifles if cannon-grade powder was not available. On the evening of this incident, a finer-grade powder (FFFg) was used to charge the cannon.

The two counselors then filled two film canisters with sand and placed them into the bore of the cannon along with a wad of toilet paper and a discarded plastic bag off the ground. Without the wadding, the cannon was known to produce only a puff of smoke rather than a loud report. Sometimes a potato or carrot, or other convenient materials were used as wadding.
Next, the counselors placed a small amount of FFFg black powder as a priming charge over the cannon’s touchhole. Some of this extra black powder probably fell down the vent and into the cannon’s breech. Experience had shown that black powder over the touchhole was more effective than a fuse to ensure the cannon fired at the appropriate time during the flag ceremony. On the evening of the incident, the victim was using a 4-foot long stick to light the priming charge over the touchhole. When the two early attempts with burning twine on the end of the stick failed, the victim reportedly placed an additional charge of FFFg black powder over the cannon’s touchhole and also wrapped toilet paper around the end of the stick for a better flame. This also failed to ignite the powder, but repeatedly pushing the end of the stick closer to the touchhole finally ignited the charge causing the cannon to burst. A large portion of the breech struck the victim in the forehead, and he fell unconscious to the ground. The other youth was spun around by the force of the blast, but was uninjured. The victim’s injuries were obviously serious and a request was made to immediately transport him by air ambulance to a medical facility. He died in a hospital, 4 days later.
The youth camp has operated a black-powder program for years, providing instruction in the safe use of black-powder rifles and muskets. The program operates with a ratio of one adult instructor per youth to ensure safety while on the firing range. A camp volunteer with experience in firing black-powder weapons developed the original procedure used to fire the cannon. The original procedure was not written down, but reportedly included using only cannon-grade black powder.
The camp’s national organization has written standards for black-powder programs that do not address using cannons. A training video for the cannon at the camp was prepared, but was not consistently used, and in many details did not demonstrate standard safety procedures. The camp did not develop written procedures for successive youth counselors and therefore procedures were subject to subtle changes over time.
The cannon involved in this incident had been purchased from a local dealer, who was well known for his support of the youth organization running the camp. The cannon, a scaled down replica of a historical British naval artillery piece, was shipped, along with many others like it, into the United States from England in the 1960’s. The cannon had been imported as a solid casting and then had been bored, and a touchhole added, by a subsequent owner in the United States. The dealer acquired and sold the piece as a cannon prepared to fire black-powder charges. According to the employer, there was no literature accompanying the cannon at the time of sale, and a minimal amount of verbal instructions on how to load, fire, or care for the weapon.
The cause of the cannon failure could not be conclusively established. However investigators have considered several possibilities:
1. Metal fatigue exacerbated by corrosion in the cannon’s bore may have reduced its material strength to the point that it was no longer able to contain the pressure of firing.
2. The method of loading resulted in an overload charge that developed too much pressure for the cannon to withstand.
3. The sand-filled film canisters used to occlude the bore may not have been placed directly against the powder charge, leaving an air gap between the powder charge and the projectile. This condition has been known to generate pressures well in excess of those developed by correct loading procedures.
1. Develop written procedures to ensure the cannon is charged and fired by trained and knowledgeable persons, within the manufacturer’s specifications and intended use, and with specific operating procedures, including misfire.
The employer purchased the cannon and then used internal resources from its black-powder program to develop safe operating procedures. These procedures were not written down, and changed over time when communicated to successive counselors. The employer was apparently not aware of these changes. Written procedures should address proper use, firing/charging, storage, and how to manage misfires. Cannons purchased without accompanying literature from the manufacturer, documenting firing and maintenance procedures, should not be fired.
Additional sources of representative safety procedures for black-powder cannons, developed from historical records and practical experience of shooting organizations for antique cannons, are listed in the reference section of this report.
2. Adult counselors should conduct the firing of black-powder cannons used at youth camps.
Instead of using an unobstructed charge of cannon-grade (Fg) black powder, the counselors used a charge of FFFg powder, and obstructed the cannon bore with two sand-filled 35mm film canisters. Either of these alterations to the established procedure creates conditions that can cause increased pressures in the cannon upon firing. Instead of a “salute” charge the procedure resulted in a “service” charge that fired a projectile. An experienced adult instructor with knowledge in safe
black-powder firing procedures would have been able to recognize the hazard of the altered firing method and would have initiated a more formalized misfire protocol.
On this occasion, it is not known if the film canisters were tamped down securely against the black-powder charge. Witnesses reported the victim had some trouble in ramming down the first canister. According to safety rules published by the American Artillery Association, all projectiles should pass easily through the bore and be firmly seated against the powder charge. The difficulty in seating the first film canister may indicate an air pocket existed between the powder charge and the film canisters. According to cannon experts consulted as part of this investigation, occlusion of the barrel with the projectile not firmly seated against the powder charge can result in an explosive blast outward instead of moving the projectile down the bore toward the muzzle. Some reviewers speculate that this appears to be what happened in this case, based on evidence from photographs and the damage to the cannon, sustained entirely in the area behind its trunnions. (See photo 4, below) To avoid an air pocket, a ramrod with two markings should be used: one showing the position completely against the back of the bore with no load, and a second showing the position with a properly seated projectile against the powder charge. The ramrod used at the camp had no markings to verify the depth of the load.
Similarly, the adult program manager, not youth counselors, should handle misfires. A cannon misfire must be approached cautiously with a specific misfire procedure. The American Artillery Association recommends a six-step procedure to safely discharge the cannon or remove the charge following a misfire. Details of misfire procedures along with safe loading and firing procedures can be found at:
3. Youth should not be employed in positions that include the use or handling of explosive materials.
Federal child labor regulations for agriculture have identified the handling or using of a blasting agent, including black powder, as a particularly hazardous activity for youth under age 16 (29 CFR 570.71). Youth under age 18 may not be employed in plants or establishments manufacturing or storing explosives or articles containing explosive components (29 CFR 570.51). We recommend that the nonagricultural and agricultural regulations be harmonized, recognizing that exposure to explosive materials is particularly hazardous and the differences between these work environments do not warrant different protective orders. It is our recommendation that youth under age 18 should not be employed in positions that include the use or handling of explosive materials, including ammunition, black powder, blasting caps, dynamite, high explosives, fireworks, primers and primer cord, smokeless powder, and other goods and materials designated as explosives by the United States Interstate Commerce Commission.
4. Use only solid steel or seamless steel-lined cast-iron cannons to fire black-powder charges.
The dealer referred to the cannon as being made of”grey steel,” an older term used to describe what is today commonly known as “cast iron.” A metallurgical engineer consulted as part of this
investigation reported that current manufacturing standards for ceremonial salute cannons require a solid-steel body or cast iron with a seamless steel insert. Cannons made from poured or casted processes, the engineer reported, are prone to failure with time and use.
Solid cast cannons should always be checked for containing solid seamless steel bores. If they do not have the seamless steel bore, they should not be used to fire any kind of high explosive.
5. Do not obstruct the bore when firing for ceremonial salutes.
There are two kinds of firings: ceremonial salutes and service loads. A ceremonial salute does not include firing a projectile. The black-powder charge may be doubled as long as the cannon’s bore is not occluded. A service load refers to a black-powder charge used in a cannon for the purpose of firing a projectile. Always follow manufacturer’s recommendations when designing procedures for setting the amount of black powder used to fire a cannon.
6. Use the appropriate grade and quantity of black powder as designated for the cannon.
Black powder comes in different grades and ranges. The finer-grained grades of black powder have an increased surface area compared to coarser grain. Finer grains burn more rapidly and are more explosive. Usually the main charge should be of the coarsest granular powder designed for the type of firing (ceremonial/salutes or service loads). One should consult the manufacturer of the cannon for specific firing instructions.
The standard safety procedure that designates preparing the powder charge by wrapping it in heavy aluminum foil had been abandoned at the camp a year before, because it made cleaning difficult. National safety standards establish a maximum charge of 656 grains of grade F powder, or about 1½ film canisters. The camp’s firing procedure had been designed for a salute charge, with powder alone, and a training video shows three film canisters of grade FFFg powder used for a charge. Some 900 grains was used regularly. Particularly with the introduction of a means to occlude the cannon’s bore, the cannon was overcharged. Additionally, a more explosive grade of black powder was being used. Long use with extra explosive stress is likely to have weakened the structural integrity of the cannon.
7. Inspect the gun tube regularly to detect signs of stress.
Cannons should be magnafluxed periodically to determine suitability for continued use. Regular assessments assure the cannon’s structural integrity is being maintained. A cannon should also be magnafluxed between changes in program directors to ensure integrity as the new director assumes responsibility for the program.
A cannon should be stored where it will not be damaged between uses. After every firing, a cannon should be cleaned according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Black powder is hygroscopic (moisture attracting), and moisture can degrade and weaken the metal with rust. Recommended maintenance involves washing the bore from muzzle to breech using hot soapy water followed by a thorough rinse and then allowed to thoroughly dry. The camp reportedly stored the cannon inside between firings, but it was not cleansed after each use, but weekly.
8. Periodically review processes to ensure adherence to safe work practices.
Although the employer follows nationally developed standards for conducting periodic reviews of its at-risk activities, locally implemented programs, like cannon usage, were not included in a periodic review and performance evaluation. The employer had developed an unwritten procedure for safely charging/firing and managing misfires with the cannon at its local youth camp, but youth counselors, without review or oversight, gradually modified the verbal procedures they received. At another youth camp managed by this employer, an adult volunteer counselor has been using his personal cannon without incident for several years. The staff at this camp, however, did not communicate with the other camp’s cannoneer, who had extensive experience with cannon use and safety procedures.
The Civil War News, Artillery Safety
Reenactment Safety Regulations for Tannenbaum Historic Park and Greensboro Country Park Parks/DOC 5 - Reen Safety Regs.doc
California Historical Artillery Society: Safety Rules and Procedures for Muzzle Loading Artillery
Sample Rules for Black Powder use in Battle Reenactments
Cannon Shooting Instructions & Warranty Information
Photo 3. This photo shows a solid steel cannon in use at another of this employer’s youth camps. This cannon is equipped with a ‘slap hammer” for firing. Problems encountered with other firing methods, i.e., touchstick, fuse, loose powder, etc. are eliminated. The person firing the cannon typically stands 4-5 feet from the cannon and pulls a lanyard to set off a small cap-like primer charge in the cannon’s touchhole.
Photo 4. Section of failed cannon breech behind trunnions.
For More Information
The Center for Research on Occupational and Environmental Toxicology at Oregon Health & Science University performs Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE) investigations through a cooperative agreement with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), Division of Safety Research (DSR). The goal of these evaluations is to prevent fatal work injuries in the future by studying the working environment, the worker, the task the worker was performing, the tools the worker was using, the energy exchange resulting in fatal injury, and the role of management in controlling how
Oregon Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (OR-FACE) Program
Center for Research on Occupational and Environmental Toxicology (CROET)
Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) 3181 SW Sam Jackson Park, L606
Portland, OR 97239-3098
Phone (503) 494-2502
Email: [email protected]
Web site:
Oregon FACE reports are for information, research, or occupational injury control only. Safety and health practices may have changed since the investigation was conducted and the report was completed. Persons needing regulatory compliance information should consult the appropriate regulatory agency.

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Man charged in firework cannon accident[/color]

(Grand Rapids, September 21, 2005, 11:55 a.m.) A man accused of making a homemade cannon and shooting a firework that severely injured a woman was charged with the crime Wednesday morning.

The Kent County Sheriff's Department says it happened July 4 in the 13000 block of Grand River Drive in Lowell Township. The firework shot through the passenger side window of a vehicle, hitting the passenger, 65-year-old Francis Thomas. Thomas suffered a broken collarbone, fractured facial injuries, and some smashed teeth.

Twenty-year-old Nicholas Stormzand of Lowell says he never intended for that firework to smash through Thomas' car. She says she believes him. Still, that changes little, as Thomas is disfigured, has tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills, and awaits more operations. Friends held a fundraiser Saturday to help with some of the costs.

Stormzand didn't want to talk on camera, but spoke freely without a microphone on to 24 Hour News 8 about the incident.

Stormzand says it wasn't a pipe bomb, but rather a Fourth of July cannon, something he had made time and time before out of used car parts.

The piece of a pickup drive shaft, weighing more than ten pounds, was filled with gun powder and paper towels, and had a fuse attached to it. Stormzand says it was only supposed to make a loud noise and not go anywhere.

He says he shot it off 50 times that day, which wasn't a problem. But for some reason, one that he can't explain, it shot off backwards hundreds of yards and hit the window of the Thomas' moving car.

Still difficult to speak, with hardly a memory of that day, Thomas sat in the courtroom Wednesday and watched the proceedings.

"Well, I don't think he intentionally planned on hurtin' me. But yeah, you gotta forgive in order to keep going," she told 24 Hour News 8 after the hearing.

She says probation, such as community service like working in a hospital with victims like herself, would bring justice. Her daughter, though, wishes the state could do more.

"But the state of Michigan should look at something a little stiffer, not just for pipe bombs and fireworks, I'm saying for any serious accidental injuries," said Thomas' daughter.

Stormzand is now charged with use of an illegal firearm.

24 Hour News 8 spoke to Kent County Prosecutor Bill Forsythe who says he is working with the prosecutor's association and West Michigan legislators to try to beef up the law. Forsythe would like the use of an illegal firework that causes injury to be a two-year felony, just like it is for vehicles and for firearms.

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
In the firing line[/color]

When a serious accident involving a cannon occurred during a local Proms concert, Ryedale DC found their health and safety knowledge stretched beyond ordinary limits. Robin Rawson and Carol Rattenbury recount the learning curve which resulted in a successful prosecution

Environmental health officers can find themselves applying their expertise to some unusual situations, but a cannon explosion is extraordinary even by these standards, and an accident in Ryedale's district saw several disciplines involved in a steep learning curve.

Local authority enforcement applied, as the accident occurred during an outdoor event - but this was a major investigation for a department with only one health and safety specialist. The Napoleonic period could have furnished many experts in muzzle-loading cannon; not so the late 20th century. As a result, this complex case required widespread liaison; with the HSE (Local Authority Unit and Explosives Inspectorate), police (both in Suffolk and Yorkshire), the Gun Barrel Proofing House, the American Civil War Society, the Royal Armouries and the Sealed Knot Association.

The Concert
A "Last Night of the Proms" concert including displays of fireworks and cannon was organised by Window Through Time and held on Saturday 22 August 1998, at Castle Howard, North Yorkshire. Ryedale was responsible for licensing the event, which included briefing Castle Howard staff over arrangements and assessing the site for public safety.

The Accident
While the Midland Symphony Orchestra played Beethoven's Battle Symphony, live cannon fire was employed to heighten the experience. The special effects were created by several full-size cannon and banks of mortar tubes provided by the Trafalgar Gun Company, run by Martin Bibbings. A gun crew member was seriously injured when her cannon discharged prematurely. She sustained injuries to her right hand and wrist, losing two fingers (a third was surgically removed later), and the palm of her hand. The bones in her wrist and lower arm were smashed, her face was seriously burnt (black powder was embedded in the wounds); and the blast was also thought to have burnt her lungs.

The investigation fell into three distinct areas:
1. the events of 22 August 1998
2. the procedures used leading to the accident
3. the accepted procedure for firing muzzle-loading weaponry.

The events
The witness statements and Section 20 interviews of the gun crews, and a PACE interview with Mr Bibbings, established the following sequence:
i. Mr Bibbings arrived at 10am to set up the guns and mortars with home-made black powder charges of aluminium held together with masking tape.
ii. The volunteers helped load the mortar tubes and wire them to electric detonators.
iii. During the concert the crews dressed in military-style costume and assumed their tableau positions.
iv. At a given signal the loaded guns were prepared for firing. Two of the volunteer gunners manned a grey 6lb field gun and a small green howitzer.
v. They fired two shots from the howitzer, and repeated the routine for the field gun.
vi. While preparing the second discharge, the powder ignited prematurely, propelling the ramrod out of the gunner's hand, causing severe injury.
firing the cannon

A crew of two was asked to fire two shots from both guns within a four-minute window during the music. One team member acted as gun captain while the other served as crew.
Both guns were already loaded, but only primed during the performance.
i. The gun captain spiked the charge and primed it with fine powder. On his own command, "Fire", the linstock was placed to the vent, firing the blank charge.
ii. On the captain's command, the barrel was immediately cleaned with a damp swab.
iii. The crew took a new charge from the secure store behind the gun, and rammed it down the barrel, followed by wadding.
iv. The cartridge was spiked, primed and fired.
v. The crew turned to the second loaded gun, primed and fired.
vi. The barrel was swabbed.
vii. The second charge was brought up and loaded. As it was rammed home, the charge detonated discharging the ramrod.

Both the discharge of the tool and the blast caused injury. The crews followed the techniques they had been taught to use, and were familiar with using. We needed more information to thoroughly understand the case. Croner's Health and Safety at Work Issue 154 discusses the status of volunteers, and was very helpful in establishing responsibility for the accident.
Questions regarding the safety of the equipment were raised. We commissioned reports from the Birmingham Gun Barrel Proof House and the HSE Explosives Inspectorate. These concerned the suitability and condition of the gun; and the handling of explosives, including the assembly and use of black powder cartridges.

We also researched the construction and safety of tools provided for the gun crews, the training they required to work safely, and the training they actually received. We questioned whether the specific properties of the black powder used made it more prone to premature detonation. In fact Colonel Farquharson's Favourite Sporting Black Powder has very low sensitivity to ignition by friction or impact and is thermally stable, though it is highly sensitive to ignition by electric spark or flame. Aluminium melts at 660oC and boils at 2467oC. The detonation temperature would not exceed 2200oC. Consequently the foil cartridge could burn but not vaporise. As oxygen re-enters the barrel the residue oxidises to fine white powder capable of igniting any remaining tape from the cartridge.

Procedural Safety
The volunteers assumed the procedures they followed were safe, yet a discrepancy between experts in period weaponry and Mr Bibbings soon appeared. While different organisations do have slight procedural variations, the routines they cite for safe loading and reloading all include worming. Worming is a process in which a wooden shaft, with a metal helical head (the worm) is inserted into the barrel and twisted, to ensure the gun is free of extraneous material. The overwhelming weight of expert opinion saw this as vital prior to wet swabbing when using aluminium foil cartridges (which may make a waterproof shield).

Mr Bibbings wormed his guns before the event, but did not consider worming between shots necessary. He insisted that worming was only to prevent accumulated cartridge bases blocking the vent, not a safety procedure. His reasoning that everything would be vaporised and that aluminium does not burn contradicts the known properties of aluminium.

Training deficiencies
The crews received some training in gun drill, including the need for safety, and took the precaution of not firing adjacent guns. They understood the need to seal the touch-hole during swabbing to create an oxygen-depleted vacuum. The injured person acknowledges that when swabbing the second gun, the tool turned and withdrew easily. At the time she attributed this to improved strength and skill, not failure to achieve a vacuum. While knowing the need for a vacuum, the gunners weren't equipped to identify the danger. Volunteers operating the other guns on the night insist they were allowed to fire cannon after only observing a single event, and that one acted as gun captain during his first season with the Trafalgar Gun Company. This contradicts Mr Bibbings' insistence that only well-trained and experienced volunteers operated his guns.

Assessment deficiencies
Throughout the investigation Mr Bibbings claimed to be the country's foremost expert in handling muzzle-loading weaponry, citing consultations for television period dramas. He asserted a total safety culture, but demonstrated little awareness of the law pertaining to explosives, eg driver training or the licences his volunteers should possess. Interviews with members of the HSE's Explosives Inspectorate of the Chemicals and Hazardous Installations Division confirmed this:
"He did not assess the suitability of aluminium foil for black powder cartridges, or the placing of masking tape on the cartridge. When setting up his business Mr Bibbings enquired what to use, and was recommended foil, but evidently remained unaware of the additional precautions needed. This is probably because those giving advice assumed worming would be routine."
The cartridges' base should not be taped, to prevent residues adhering to the breech.
The size of the cartridges made up for the display demonstrated more concern for visual impact than crew safety. Though the guns can carry larger charges, the American Civil War Society and the Sealed Knot set a 4oz limit (this would carry a 4lb cannon ball two miles in 30 seconds). The charge that caused the injuries weighed 12oz. Such large charges were needless as the mortar tubes provided most of the noise and smoke. Smaller charges would not have lessened the audience's experience, but this was not considered.

Equipment Safety
The report submitted by the Gun Barrel Proofing House indicated that the weapon was safe to use, but its large calibre exempted it from proofing. A system that excludes worming must rely on efficient swabbing. Each gun was supplied with a wet swab and a ramrod. To extinguish heat and sparks in a gun barrel, the swab needed to be sufficiently wet, with maximum surface area exposure to the bore. The absorbent material needed to fit tightly in the barrel, requiring ramrods and swabs to be gun-specific. Photographs of a swab provided for another gun, showed the material taped in place, obscuring much of the surface area. Witnesses recalled that the swab provided for the 6lb gun was also taped. The significance of the swab made its recovery important. However, the rod was last seen heading towards the lake in the direction in which the guns had been deployed for crowd safety reasons. Police divers failed to find it, leaving the case for poor maintenance resting on the witnesses.

Manning levels
Normally four people plus a gun captain work an individual artillery piece. The captain gives the orders, and the others perform only one function. The accident involved only two. As the gun captain was part of the firing team, no-one had overall supervision. Mr Bibbings strongly disagreed that more people were required to operate the cannon safely.

Legal requirements
Mr Bibbings had an Acquire and Keep certificate permitting him to buy and store limited amounts of black powder. However, all those handling back powder also needed Acquire certificates, and those actually firing muzzle-loading weapons required shotgun or firearms certificates.

Human error
Failing to identify the absence of a vacuum while swabbing contributed to the accident, but this should not have been the only means of achieving safety. Was there an element of competition between the crews that could have overridden signals that all was not right? Everyone acknowledged the excitement of the experience, but no one raced to be the first to finish firing. While Mr Bibbings denies pressurising the crews to fire all four shots, professional pride may have driven the crews to comply with his request, possibly introducing a competitive element.

In the light of the evidence, it was considered that Mr Bibbings had failed to discharge the duties placed on him under Section 3 (2) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, in that on the evening of 22 August 1998 at Castle Howard, York, he caused severe injuries to be sustained to one of the volunteers, exposed to risks to their health and safety people to whom he owed a statutory duty of care by failing to provide:
a) a safe system of work, and
b) adequate training and instruction.
Also, under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1992 Regulation 3(b), he failed to carry out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment of the activities associated with the operation of Trafalgar Gun Company.

Mr Bibbings was found guilty of all three charges. The significance of the decision lies in according volunteers the same status under Health and Safety legislation as employees. It vindicates the safety procedures of re-enactment societies. It is also one of the few successful prosecutions for failure to undertake suitable and sufficient risk assessment under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1992 Regulation 3(b).

When inspecting a re-enactment society demonstration or a performance involving live cannon fire it is important to:
i. be briefed on an obscure area of environmental health
ii. examine all the appropriate documentation
iii. verify that gun crews understand the procedures they are expected to follow and why.

Risk assessments should include:
i. methods that ensure the safety of the gunners, audience, and anyone else involved
ii. the safety of black powder, both storage and transportation
iii. detailed procedures of firing routines
iv. minimum crew sizes
v. the procedure in the event of failure to discharge
vi. evidence of barrel proofing even if greater than 2" bore
vii. evidence of the appropriate licences, or certificates
viii. training and years of experience.

This investigation required teamwork to assimilate information beyond our previous experience. Liaison with a wider body of experts demonstrates the need for co-operation beyond the confines of a small department. We believe the HSE publication Guidance to Re-enactment Societies requires prompt revision. It offers no advice to those using cartridges, and could even be construed as advocating the use of loose powder. As most societies use cartridges, guidance on their safe use should be included.

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Click on this link to see pictures of a yard ornament used a cannon and the aftermath. Glad to report no inijuries.

Images of my Exploded Cannon[/color]

Here's the Story from the original post:

Hi all my name is ed. I have been involved with black powder since ’00 I have learned many trick of the trade and I have become the man to go to with a gun problem in my small circle of enthusiasts. We are Primarily Pirate and renaissance actors who use the guns to fire only powder and a bread or tissue wad. Well in this line of work I have come across a cannon and it was bliss. It is a small yard cannon I bought second hand. She was loyal and loud for years and this Sunday past, it happened. I had heard that if you try a small amount of sand in the barrel it will make a louder bang. I loaded powder and wad then a small bit of sand. Needless to say I would not be here if it went smoothly. It went to h#ll very fast. The breech did not crack or break….it burst into about a dozen nice little razor sharp pieces…no one THANK GOD was hurt. But it has made me ever so gun shy now. I can disassemble and reassemble my rifle and pistols with my eyes closed. I can tell you exactly how many grains they can take with maximum sound and minimum recoil. Practice and patience has led me this far.

The load was used in the cannon that blew up was 500gr or 1.1oz it hade a 1.5" bore and was 18" long. the load was packed with a bread wad. This has worked for years. this time we added sand to see a bang. it was a failure. The Dixie Barrel comes in tomorrow and with anyluck we will have a carriage built by saturday. I plan to start with 1oz and no wad and see what she says, the i will try 1oz with some bread. then 2 oz no wad. then 2oz with bread. if all these work i will pick the best sound and use that as the standard.

after it blew i saw that parts of the breech were as thin as 2/16" it was shocking to think this cast iron had never blown before. the gun from dixie has 1.5" of steel and iron all the way around the breech. so i assume that since i have used up to 2oz tightly packed in my old cannon. that this huge bohemoth should be able to handle the same loads.

the team that i am friends with has been using 1oz of pyrodex RS and a sand charge for the past few weeks with this same model cannon and have not had any problems. so I assume that 2 oz with a light tissue wad should be safe. And since the company has purchased me 5lbs of powder I am going to have to go through it.

for reference when i say 1oz i mean in 35mm film canister packed in tinfoil.

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·,147499.0.html

jeeper1 said:
ROCHESTER, Wash. -- Metal shrapnel from an exploding cannon injured three people, including an 11-year-old boy, during a Fourth of July gathering in the Thurston County community of Rochester.

Sheriff's Sgt. Cheryl Stines says the cannon exploded about 10:30 p.m. Friday.

She says the boy was taken to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle with "severe lacerations" to his leg and abdomen.

Stines says two adults also were injured: a 34-year-old male suffered severe abdominal injuries and a woman in her 30s suffered abdominal and leg injuries.

Their identities and medical conditions are not immediately available.

The woman was 80 feet away when hit.

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·

LITTLE ROCK, Wash. - An 8-year-old boy is dead after a cannon exploded during a Fourth of July celebration south of Tumwater Wednesday night.

The Thurston County Coroner has identified the boy as Devan Vyborny of Olympia.

The explosion happened at around 7:50 p.m. in the 6800 block of 105th Ave SW, near the town of Little Rock.

The cannon was about 18 inches long and was packed with black powder, according to Thurston County Chief Sheriff's Deputy Jim Chamberlain.

Shrapnel from the explosion hit the boy, who was more than 150 feet away, Chamberlain said.

The boy was rushed to St. Peter Hospital in critical condition, where he later died.

So far, detectives are uncertain whether the cannon was a replica or meant to be fired. They are also trying to determine whether the man who fired the weapon, "a relative of the boy," had any experience in discharging the cannon.

Police said there were nine adults and seven children present when the cannon exploded. No one else was injured.

Fireworks are legal in that area.

Chamberlain said it is yet unclear whether the incident was "a tragic accident," or whether a crime was committed.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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16,733 Posts
Discussion Starter · #11 ·

Blown up pipe bomb[/color]

Zulu said:
Well, here’s the story.
About 25 years ago, long, long before I had any cannon knowledge, my brother worked at a machine shop. He decided to make a noisemaker. He took a 3’ piece of stainless steel and bored it all the way through. As near as I can tell, it was 2 3/4” diameter with a 1 ½” bore. He had some one weld a 1 ½” breach plug in it. Vent hole was drilled for a fuse.
He shot some ball bearings out of it several times then used it to make noise for some years. He then gave it to my cousin who lives in the country. He used it to make noise at parties and our family reunions. It was always propped on a cinder block or something and recoiled about 6’ in the dirt. Black powder was always used. There were always many family members around as witnesses.
I then purchased my 10 pounder Parrott Rifle and started pulling it to our family reunions. The pipe bomb was retired to the barn around that time. That was 13 years ago.
Two years ago, at one of our family reunions, I asked my cousin about it. After a short search we found it in the corner of one of his barns. Using my knowledge, mostly gained on this forum, I pointed out some hairline cracks and strongly told him that it should be cut in half and thrown in the nearby Brazos River. I specifically told him that “it would fail sometime and could kill anyone standing around it”.
It went back in the barn. :-\ :-\ :-\ :-\ That was two years ago.
Our last family reunion was this weekend. This is what I found out.
Sometime this year my cousin had a large party for about 75 people. At the end of the party most of the folks left and only about 15 were around when, unknown to my cousin, someone found the bomb in one of the barns.
The story is that someone loaded it with some smokeless powder and it just fizzled when fired. They then loaded it with an unknown amount of powder and packed paper towels on top of it.
They will never find all the pieces.
Here is what I saw or was told.
One piece of the bomb went through the side of a truck door shattering all the windows in the truck.
Another piece blew a tire out of another truck about 100 feet away.
Another piece went through the gable of a nearby house and exited out the roof.
The biggest piece was found about 130 yards (by my estimate) away from where the thing was fired.
There are about 30 holes in his out buildings (one about 150’ away) ranging in size from marble to about 6” long. Many of them went in one side of the building and out the other side. When I took pictures of the holes I forgot to use anything to reference size. My hand could fit in one of the holes in the picture.
All the pieces will never be found. I estimate there is only about 1/3 of the barrel has been found so far. The rusty piece is the breach plug.
How none of the 15 spectators was hit I cannot fathom. There are holes everywhere!
This went down without my cousin’s knowledge until the explosion. He was extremely shaken! This was the only time the bomb had been out of the barn since he and I had our discussion.

Make your cannons for how someone else will shoot it. Don’t use smokeless powder.
There was about 1” of powder left in the can which I dumped on the ground.
WOW!! What a discussion this made this weekend. I walked around and found 2 more small pieces lying on the ground, either of which could have killed someone.
Be careful! Our biggest enemy is our own ignorance.

Found 130 yards away!

My hand could fit in this hole


Super Moderator
16,733 Posts
Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Premature Ignition - Cannon Accident[/color]

The said:
A few days ago I heard a cousin of mine had built a cannon. All I knew about it was that it was ~3' long, and he was shooting frozen coke cans out of it on half a pound of powder and used shop rags as wadding. I meant to send him a few pointers on safe construction, loads, and loading procedures but I've just learned that I'm a bit too late.

As best I can tell this all happened yesterday evening. He'd shot the cannon a number of times and was pouring more powder down the barrel when it went off in his face. 10% of his body is burned and he's got debris in his eyes and no vision. Today they flushed his eyes out and he's got blurry vision and he's currently in surgery for the burns.

I called my uncle to get the specs on how the cannon was built and this is what I understood him to say. The barrel was a piece of "Shelby Pipe" 3.5" OD and 3/8" thick walls, so that leaves a 2.75" bore. The breech plug was 2.75" diameter by 5/8" thick and welded into the bore, then a 3.5" diameter 5/8" thick plate was welded onto the back. Major construction issues and thankfully the whole thing didn't come apart on him.

Here are the main issues I see, and there are probably more:
1. Excessive loads
2. Not swabbing the barrel and leaving burning embers
3. No aluminum foil powder packets
4. Not plugging the vent while reloading
5. Standing in front of the barrel while loading
6. Insufficient wall thickness at the breech
7. Spotty breech plug construction
8. Wadding

I guess the main piece of advice from me is to simply learn what you're doing! Pure ignorance caused this accident. Another cousin is supposed to email me a picture of the cannon and I'll post that when I get it, and I'll keep this thread updated with any pertinent information as I find out about it.
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