AN explosion left a garage apprentice with severe burns after a colleague poured a highly flammable fuel mix onto a rubbish fire.
The overalls which 23-year-old Thomas Hatton were wearing caught fire, causing burns to his neck, hands and arms — in an accident described as ‘an injury waiting to happen’.
Swadlincote Diesel Fuel Injection Services, based in the Cadley Hill Industrial Estate, Ryder Close, was fined for failing to protect its staff from risk.
The company appeared at Derby Magistrates’ Court yesterday, almost three years to the day after the incident.
Simon Belfield, prosecuting for the Health and Safety Executive, told the court burning rubbish was ‘common practice’ by staff on days when work was slow — although directors claimed they knew nothing about it.
“On March 16, 2009, the employee (who was not named in court) went to pick up a container to ‘brighten’ a fire in an old drum which had been lit by the injured party,” the prosecutor said.
“It was waste fuel and he poured it over the fire to brighten it.
“The result was effectively an explosion that caused serious injuries to Mr Hatton.”
He added: “Had there been effective supervision this would have been prevented.” The prosecutor said the company did not have a safe system of work for handling, storing or using flammable substances.
The court heard laboratory testing found the liquid in the barrel was a mixture of diesel, petrol and ethanol — which had a flashpoint of 11C.
A resulting inspection by the HSE found a string of safety breaches in the area where the company extracted fuel from the petrol tanks of cars.
They included using plastic barrels to store waste fuel which were not labelled correctly, and the risk of ignition near some of the flammable substances.
Company managing director Shane Richins said he ‘sincerely regretted’ the accident, and that health and safety at the site had since been overhauled.
Mark Savill, defending, said: “On the handling of flammable liquids, the company accepts there was no safe system.
“It was only after a visit from HSE subsequently that the company became aware (of the problems).” He said the company was not directly to blame, but it ‘accepted its role in the chain of events which led to the incident’.
Mr Hatton was left with minor scarring and returned to work a month later He still works at the injection specialists today.
Swadlincote Diesel Fuel Injection Services was fined £8,000, ordered to pay £4,000 court costs and a £15 victim surcharge.
Boss regrets injuries to apprentice
A COMPANY boss ‘sincerely regrets’ the explosion which left a 23-year-old with serious injuries.
Speaking outside Derby Magistrates’ Court court, Swadlincote Diesel Fuel Injection Services managing director Shane Richins said: “The company sincerely regrets this matter and the injuries to Thomas Hatton. He was, and continues to be, a highly valued member of our team.
“Following assistance from the Health and Safety Executive we have now reinforced our existing health and safety policy to prevent a repeat of this isolated incident.”
The company had warned in court a severe financial penalty could put it in a difficult financial position.
Mr Richins said: “In the current economic climate money is tight and we need to buy new machinery. We are going to have to look at it and see.
“Fuel should never be added to a fire. The waste fuel ideally should have been drained into a sealed, labelled container and then put into a locked storage area unless it was to be returned to the vehicle as soon as possible after repairs.
“Instead it was in an unlabelled container and had been left at the entrance to the workshop.
“As a result a young man has suffered unnecessarily.”
Source: Burton Mail