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Lancashire hotel fined after manager engulfed in fireball

A Lancashire hotel was recently fined £16,000 and ordered to pay £9,075 in costs after its spa manager was engulfed in a fireball.

A Lancashire hotel was recently fined £16,000 and ordered to pay £9,075 in costs after its spa manager was engulfed in a fireball. She was using acetone to remove a customer’s artificial nails when some of the acetone spilled and fumes from it were ignited by a nearby tealight. The spa manager suffered burns to 15% of her body including her chest, neck and arms and required skin grafts at hospital. It transpired that the acetone was stored in a 2.5 litre container.

The Court agreed with HSE investigating officers who considered that the hotel had not adequately assessed the risks associated with storing the acetone in such a large container and also the proximity of the tealight. If the acetone had been stored in a smaller container, spillage would have been much less likely. In addition, flammable substances should not be stored near open flames.

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 require employers and the self-employed to make a suitable and sufficient risk assessment of the risks to both employees and persons not in their employment. The law does not require all risks to be eliminated but people should be protected as far as is “reasonably practicable”.

In addition, for beauty salons and spas, the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 require a suitable assessment of risks associated with the exposure of employees to any substances hazardous to health - for example solvents in nail varnish removers and dust fillings from artificial nails. Given that few workplaces stay the same, risk assessments should also be reviewed periodically to ensure they remain up to date.