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Serious burns sustained during an accident at work may lead to a research company facing a claim for personal compensation from an injured employee.
The unnamed 27-year-old professional had to remain in hospital for two weeks after an explosion at premises owned by research and development firm Renishaw in Stone, Staffordshire, in February last year.
He was hurt when the aluminium powder in an industrial vacuum cleaner reacted with water, therefore creating explosive hydrogen gas.
An investigation carried out by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) found that the equipment had been used to clean up aluminium powder at the site before then being left to stand over the weekend.
As such, the hydrogen gas that had formed exploded when the unknowing worker switched the machinery on. Due to the severity of his burn injuries, the man could not return to his job for three months.
During a case heard at Stafford Magistrates' Court, the HSE noted that this incident could have been avoided if Renishaw had conducted a proper risk assessment, as doing so would have led to it identifying that a reaction between the powder and water could occur.
As such, the company was fined £7,000 for its negligence after admitting to a breach of the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002.
Wayne Owen, inspector at the HSE, stated the type of vacuum used by Renishaw for this work was unsuitable for use with aluminium powder.
"Had the company paid attention to the instructions for working with this metal powder, or indeed the machine itself, then the incident could have been prevented. It must have been a very frightening experience for the worker, who suffered painful injuries," he added.
Mr Owen went on to explain that aluminium powder and water can create a "highly explosive gas" when mixed together, meaning the firm should have been well aware of the potential dangers.
Posted by Emily Swanson
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