SAFC Hitech, a Wirral chemical firm, was ordered to pay fines of £120k by Liverpool crown court for violating health and safety regulations following an incident where a 45 year old employee from Kirkby was severely burned by a fireball after an explosion. The employee, Leslie jones, sustained injuries so severe that doctors induced a seven-week coma to aid him in recovering sufficiently from the accident that occurred on February 28 last year.
Employees alerted emergency service to come to SAFC Hitech’s Bromborough base following reports of a chemical spill. After a batch of the volatile chemical trimethylindium (or TMI) exploded, Mr Jones was suddenly caught in a fireball. His co-workers hurried to aid him and Mr Jones was covered in flames. He was then brought to a specialist burns unit in Whiston hospital and put in a coma. Mr Jones had to stay in hospital for nearly three months. To this day he still has severe burns on his face, right arm and upper body and finds it difficult to move.
Following an investigation into the accident, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted the chemical firm. They were charged for not performing an adequate risk assessment in relation to the waste generated by the TMI purification process, insufficient supervision and monitoring of employees and failures in ensuring their safety. Simon Parrington of the HSE said that said the company simply did not have a safe system of work and this led to the injuries suffered by Mr Jones which have ultimately left him “substantially cosmetically blemished”.
SAFC Hitech admitted to allowing the unsafe work practices that were carried out by their employees when working with TMI and were remorseful for Mr Jones’s injuries. The company was fined £120k and ordered to pay £13,328 costs after pleading guilty to single violations of the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002 and the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
Wyman-Gordon Ltd, a company that manufactures metal components, has been ordered to pay fines of £16,500 and costs of £6,178 by Lincoln Magistrates Court following an incident where a 20-year-old worker sustained serious injury at its Lincoln factory on October 2010. The young agency worker, who does not want to be named, had his skull fractured and also sustained severe facial injuries as he was working with a hand-held grinder. The wheel of the grinder broke as he was using it and the wheel was subsequently thrown from the grinder which then broke through his visor and struck him in the face.
Following the incident it was necessary for the man to undergo extensive medical treatment, such as a five-hour operation for the removal of a piece of bone that had been touching his brain. This was followed by further reconstructive surgery. Fortunately, since then he has been able to return to work again. An investigation was carried out by the Health and Safety Executive and it discovered that the agency worker did not receive adequate training for the safe use of the hand-held grinder and how to safely change the wheel.
Because of this, the worker is likely to have attached a defective grinding wheel to the grinder and then used it subsequently. If the agency worker had been adequately trained, he probably would have known this. It was also discovered that there had been no sufficient supervision when the worker was performing his duties with the grinders.
Scott Wynne, a HSE inspector Scott Wynne said –
“It is vital that workers who use hand-held grinders get appropriate training in their safe use and in how to change the grinding wheels properly. Most importantly operators need to know how to identify defects.
“Had this worker undergone such training, he may have been able to identify the defective wheel prior to using it.
“This was a preventable incident. Wyman-Gordon Ltd paid insufficient heed to the safety of this worker. As a result, a young man was left with a horrific head injury. He was extremely lucky to escape with his life.”