A company based in south Wales has been fined by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after two of its workers were injured in an industrial accident.
The employees, who were contracted by Maxibrite in Llantrisant, were alerted by staff to the presence of smoke coming out of a tower that was used to produce a solid fuel product.
Failed Fire Protocols
After arriving at the scene, there were several attempts by workers to put the blaze out by using a fire hose system, but this did not work and to try and resolve the situation, manager Simon Gilbody decided he should inspect a hatch at the bottom of the tower.
This was part of an attempt to remove any dust that might have caused an obstruction and therefore could have been fuelling the fire that was beginning to rage out of control.
Mr Gilbody asked a member of his staff, named by the HSE as Carl Lewis, to open the hatch, but as he did this hot cinders shot out and hit the manager in the chest, neck and face.
This did not cause him serious injury, but as Mr Lewis tried to close the door, he was engulfed in hot coals that caused severe burn injuries across his body.
There was an emergency shower at the Maxibrite plant and Mr Lewis stayed under cold running water for 30 minutes before he was taken to hospital, something that is likely to have improved his chances of a positive outcome.
Burns injuries are made less severe if they are put under cold water as soon as is possible at the time, but Mr Lewis still had to receive a number of skin grafts to complete his recovery.
Work Accident Investigation
After being informed of the accident, the HSE immediately dispatched its inspectors so the facts of the case could be established.
Investigations revealed that Maxibrite had not carried out a strong enough risk assessment to consider the effects of a fire on a rotary drier. The company was also criticised for not providing proper instruction, training or procedures for workers to follow in the event of a fire.
This essentially means that staff members were put at risk and had to improvise in the face of a rapidly spreading fire, something the HSE has been keen to warn other businesses in the area that they must learn lessons from.
Health and Safety at Work Regulations
For its part in the accident, Maxibrite was fined £20,000 and told to pay £5,115 in costs after pleading guilty to a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and a single breach of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations.
After the hearing HSE inspector Steve Lewis said, "Mr Lewis and Mr Gilbody could have suffered far worse injuries or even death in this incident, which could have been prevented.
"The drying process at the plant involved intensive heat so the risks of fire should have been obvious. There had been a fire at the plant previously involving a similar drying process.
"Employers must make sure they have proper plans for dealing with emergency situations and that workers are trained to know what to do when something like a fire breaks out."