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Worker suffers extensive injuries when engulfed by flames

A 45 year old worker, who asked not to be named, sustained severe burns when he was engulfed by flames at a chemical plant.

A 45 year old worker, who asked not to be named, sustained severe burns when he was engulfed by flames at a chemical plant.

SAFC Hitech Ltd had been manufacturing a chemical called trimethylindium, or TMI, which is used when producing LEDs. Waste had been created during the purification process. This waste was left on a bench to deactivate in an unsealed glass bottle, despite the potential for the waste to explode if it came into contact with air or water.

The worker had entered the waste deactivation area and the waste exploded. A colleague reported seeing him running around in a ball of flames, but the worker has no memory of this. He was taken to a specialist burns unit and placed into an induced coma for seven weeks. His injuries have lead to extensive scars and difficulty moving and he has yet to return to work.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found that the company had failed to undertake a suitable risk assessment with regard to the handling of a chemical that was known to spontaneously combust when it came into contact with either air or water. Further issues were identified with the supervision and monitoring of staff and the procedures for dealing with waste produced from the TMI purification process.

SAFC Hitech Ltd from Wirral pleaded guilty to a breach of regulation 5(1) of the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002, in relation to failure to undertake a suitable and sufficient risk assessment and also pleaded guilty to section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 for failing to ensure the safety of its employees. HHJ Gilmour of Liverpool Crown Court, in his last hearing before retirement, fined the Company £120,000 and ordered them to pay £13,328 in prosecution costs.