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Firm fined £20,000 after workers injured in factory blaze

April 3 2014

A company which manufactures solid fuel has been fined £20,000 after two workers suffered burns when trying to tackle a fire at a factory in South Wales.

The two employees were trying to fight the fire at the Maxibrite coal briquette plant in Llantrisant on 16th December 2012 when hot material from an industrial drier hit them, with one of the men suffering severe burns to his back, legs and hands.

The incident was investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) which prosecuted Maxibrite at Pontypridd Magistrates’ Court on 28th March.

Works manager Simon Gilbody and works engineer Andrew Price were alerted by staff who saw smoke coming from the top of a tower used to produce solid fuel, the court was told.

After several attempts to control the fire by hosing the tower failed, Mr Gilbody decided an inspection hatch at the bottom of the tower should be opened to let out any dust that might be causing an obstruction.

A company employee, Carl Lewis, opened the hatch but hot cinders cascaded out, burning Mr Gilbody on the chest, neck and face but without causing serious injury.

As Mr Lewis tried to close the hatch, he was himself engulfed by hot coals. After showering for 30 minutes he was taken to hospital and received skin grafts for severe burns.

HSE’s investigation found Maxibrite had not carried out a suitable risk assessment for the safe working of the rotary drier and failed to provide a safe way of working including adequate information, instruction and training for workers using the equipment, and in procedures to follow in the event of a fire.

Maxibrite Ltd, of Esh Winning, Durham, was also ordered to pay £5,115 in costs after admitting 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.

HSE inspector Steve Lewis, speaking after the hearing, 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,” he said.

“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.”

If you have suffered personal injury at work, call UnionLine on 0300 333 0303.