Firm fined after a worker is burnt due to safety breaches

Posted on 10/03/14 in News, No Comments

Firm fined after a worker is burnt due to safety breaches

First Reported by the Health and Safety Executive on 14th August 2014

West Yorkshire company Hartwell Manufacturing Ltd has been fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £7,885 in full costs after breaches of safety procedures led to a worker suffering severe burns.

The 61-year-old man was employed by Hartwell Manufacturing Ltd as part of a team working to remove three disused oil tanks at the Fox’s Biscuits factory in Batley. The worker had been using an angle grinder in order to cut a hole in one of these tanks when flames erupted after sparks ignited flammable vapours.

Trying to put out the fire, the worker inserted a high pressure water lance into a pipe opening but a back-blow of flames was instead ejected from the opening, engulfing the worker’s lower body. Although the flames were quickly extinguished the man still suffered extensive burns and required prolonged treatment and rehabilitation.

Investigations carried out by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that Hartwell Manufacturing Ltd was responsible for a number of safety breaches. The firm deviated from key safety procedures which had been agreed with Fox’s Biscuits and their site management firm. Crucially, rather than using cold-cutting equipment, a high-speed angle grinder had been provided for the task, which produces heat and sparks.

In addition, HSE found that there had been fundamental flaws with the planning of the job, in particular with regards to site access and emergency evacuation arrangements. Furthermore, the company’s managing director had failed to liaise with Fox’s Biscuits when these problems became apparent.

Hartwell Manufacturing Ltd admitted breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 at the Huddersfield Magistrates Court on 12th August. The firm was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £7,885 in full costs.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector John Micklethwaite said:

“This worker suffered exceedingly painful burn injuries that could have been avoided if Hartwell Manufacturing had followed a safe system of work and not used the angle grinder. The company used a dangerous working practice on the site unbeknown to Fox’s Biscuits.

“Work with flammable vapours must always be effectively controlled. If problems are encountered, you need to stop and reassess – not press on and use unsafe equipment which introduces an unacceptable risk of fire and explosion.

“The job should have been better planned and supervised. At several key points Hartwells failed to take the opportunity to stop the job, take stock and liaise with the occupier to ensure work could go ahead safely.”

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