Asons Solicitors Warn of Health and Safety Negligence After Worker is Engulfed by Chemical Fireball

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A Wirral-based chemical firm has been fined £120,000 after an employee sustained severe burns when he was engulfed by a chemical fireball.

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Injuries of this kind are easily avoidable; this man has suffered unnecessarily as a direct result of health and safety negligence.

The 45-year-old from Kirkby, who has asked not to be named, was kept in an induced coma for seven weeks following a chemical explosion last year. (1)

SAFC Hitech Ltd’s was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) following their investigation into the incident, which left an employee with severe burns to his face and upper body. (1)

Liverpool Crown Court heard on the 29 April 2013 (S20130098) that the company had been manufacturing a chemical called trimethylindium, or TMI, which is commonly used in the semi-conductor industry. (1)

Waste from the purification process had been carelessly left on a bench in an unsealed glass bottle, despite the chemical’s explosive properties when exposed to air or water. (S20130098)

Shortly after beginning his shift, the worker entered the area and the waste in the glass bottle exploded, sending large shards of glass across the yard. He has no recollection of the incident but one of his colleagues reported seeing him running around in a ball of flames. (1)

Current regulations and legislation state clearly that all PPE necessary for your working role should be provided by your employer. SAFC Hitech Ltd’s had a duty of care to their employee. Unfortunately, without any fire-proof clothing or protection, the victim was left defenseless. In other cases of health and safety negligence, failure to provide the correct PPE can result in cases of hearing loss, vibration white finger and in some cases, even death. (1)

As a result of the accident the employee was taken to a specialist burns unit and induced into a coma. He was kept in hospital for almost three months, and still has extensive scars and difficulty moving. (S20130098)

The Wirral-based company pleaded guilty to a single breach of the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002 and the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.(1)

The charges relate to failing to carry out a suitable risk assessment for dealing with the waste produced by the TMI purification process, failings in supervision and monitoring, and failing to ensure the safety of employees. (1)

Laura Williams, an Asons executive stated that:

“Injuries of this kind are easily avoidable; this man has suffered as a result of health and safety negligence. This incident could have been avoided if the correct personal protective equipment was in place.People who are injured in incidents of this kind deserve compensation. “

The company was fined a total of £120,000 and ordered to pay £13,328 towards the cost of the prosecution. (1)

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Semra Zack-Williams said:

"The chemical they were handling was spontaneously combustible on contact with water or air, but SAFC did not have a suitable risk assessment in place that complied with the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations for managing the extreme risks.” (1)

"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." (1)

(1)    Wirral chemical firm fined £120,000 after fireball engulfs employee - – HSE April 2013

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About Asons Solicitors:
Asons Solicitors is a Bolton-based law practice that specialises in personal injury and industrial disease claims. Founded by brothers Imran Akram and Kamran Akram, Asons Solicitors has developed to become a young and dynamic law firm that delivers practical solutions to clients in times of difficulty. Their continued focus on their staff has seen them awarded with the Investors in People “Gold Award”; which is reflected in the professional and personable approach they take in working with clients. They strive to grow and to develop, and their supportiveness and attention to detail ensures that their clients use them time and again.

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