Furnace had been filled with soft wood that man fell through… A Nottinghamshire die-casting firm has been fined after an employee suffered severe burns when he fell into a furnace.
The man sustained serious injuries after falling into a furnace at the company plant near Mansfield. The man had been in the process of removing some equipment from the top of a magnesium furnace at the company on 16 May 2011 when the accident occurred.
The inner material of the furnace was due to be changed and already a pump and a tube had been taken out of it and the hole that remained was filled with some light wood material. The accident victim’s right foot went through this soft wood while he was walking across the top of furnace which was running at a temperature of around 500°C at the time.
The man’s right foot was trapped in the magnesium melt and his shoe laces quickly burnt off which enabled him to free his foot from the trapped boot and get his leg free so he could push himself up out of the furnace before any further damage could be done.
Unsurprisingly the man suffered severe burns to his right leg and has had multiple skin grafts of the affected area since the accident. He also burned his right hand so badly that he still finds the gripping action problematic. He has recently returned to work but is unable to do the same duties as he did previously.
The HSE investigation into the accident revealed that the company had a formal written safety protocol in place for working near the furnace but the accident victim had never been made aware of this training. The HSE recommend that any companies with an elevated risk of fire or burn injuries should follow rigorous standards with regard to fire safety and protecting the welfare of their employees.
Mansfield Magistrates’ Court heard that the appropriate action would have been to fill the hole in the furnace with a metal plate, the court also heard that supervision of working practices around the furnace was not to sufficiently high standards.
The company was fined a total of £12,000 and ordered to pay costs of £6472 after pleading guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
< HSE inspector Sian Tiernan spoke after the hearing:
“This incident would never have happened if procedures had been effectively communicated and followed. The victim is very fortunate. If he hadn’t managed to release his foot from his boot his injuries would have been far worse, possibly even fatal.
“Just because procedures or safe systems of work are written down does not mean they are being followed. It is vital companies ensure employees have not only been trained in relevant safe systems of work but follow them. Measures must be in place to monitor work practices through effective supervision to ensure short cuts or dangerous acts or omissions are picked up before serious incidents occur.”