Man spent seven weeks in induced coma after chemical explosion…
A chemical firm has been hit with a £120,000 fine after an employee sustained severe burns after being engulfed by a fireball at the company’s premises in the Wirral.
The 45-year-old accident victim spent seven weeks in an induced coma following the chemical explosion in Bromborough on 28 February 2012.
The subsequent investigation by the the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) into the incident identified safety failings which led to a prosecution that was heard at Liverpool Crown Court on 29 April 2013. The court was told that the chemical company had been manufacturing a chemical known as trimethylindium (TMI) and during the production of the chemical the waste from the purification process had been left in an unsealed glass bottle on a work bench – despite the fact that the waste material was highly dangerous and had the potential to cause an explosion if exposed to air or water.
The accident victim had just started his work shift on the day of the explosion when he entered the waste deactivation area and the bottle suddenly exploded causing shards of glass to fly across the room. He does not personally recall the aftermath of the incident but work colleagues report seeing him running around in a ball of flames. He sustained severe burns to his face, upper body and right arm and spent three months recuperating from his injuries in a specialist burns unit.
The chemical company pleaded guilty to breaches of both the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002 and the Health and Safety at Work etc Act. These charges relate to failures by the company to carry out an adequate risk assessment and to supervise, monitor and protect the employees under their charge. The court imposed a fine of £120,000 on the company in addition to prosecution costs of £13,328.
HSE Inspector Semra Zack-Williams spoke after the hearing:
“One of the company’s employees has suffered burns that will affect him for the rest of his life, and has so far been unable to return to work due to the extent of his injuries.
“The procedure the company had for dealing with waste produced from the TMI purification process was inadequate, and staff were not sufficiently supervised or monitored.
“The chemical they were handling was spontaneously combustible on contact with water or air, but the company did not have a suitable risk assessment in place that complied with the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations for managing the extreme risks.
“The chemical industry has the potential to be extremely dangerous, which is why it’s vital the highest standards of health and safety are followed. SAFC fell well below those standards in this case”.
Author: Julian Roberts
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