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  3. Employee receives burns in fire caused by hazardous chemical

A young worker was severely burned in a fire at a firm based in Oldbury, West Midlands, caused by a flammable liquid.

The 21-year-old employee received 20% burns to his hands, neck and head, when a fire broke out at the premises of the Alcohol Ltd distillery. The fire completely destroyed the building, along with its contents, while cars and homes nearby were also damaged.

Wolverhampton Crown Court was told that ethyl acetate was being moved into a container from a bulk storage tank, when the worker was caught in the fire. The fire was controlled eventually, by West Mercia Fire and Rescue Service. The incident had occurred in November 2012, and the Health and Safety Executive conducted an investigation, revealing that the blaze was most likely to have been caused by a discharge of static electricity caused by the transfer of the hazardous substance. This is likely to have been the cause of ignition.

The investigation discovered that systems of work were not monitored and that equipment had not been sufficiently inspected. The company pleaded guilty to two breaches of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, and received a fine of £270,000, along with payment of costs of £25,009.

 

Following the hearing, Kieron Jones, health and safety inspector, said that failure to ensure that their equipment remained safe had placed their workers, emergency services, members of the public and their livelihood at risk.

The use of PPE is especially important when dealing with hazardous substances.

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