Monday 29 April 2013

Company fined £133,000 after "fireball"

SAFC Hitech Ltd., a chemical firm in Bromborough, has been fined £133,000 (inc. costs) after an employee sustained severe burns when he was engulfed by a fireball.
The circumstances were:
  • The company had been manufacturing a chemical called trimethylindium, or TMI, which is used during the production of LEDs and in the semi-conductor industry.
  • Waste from the purification process had been left on a bench to deactivate in an unsealed glass bottle, despite being explosive if it is exposed to air or water.
  • Shortly after starting his shift, the worker entered the waste deactivation area and the waste in the glass bottle exploded, sending shards of glass across the yard. 
  • The company had failed to carry out a suitable risk assessment for dealing with the waste produced by the TMI purification process, 
  • There were failings in supervision and monitoring, 
  • The company had failed to ensure the safety of employees.
The company were prosecuted under the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002 and the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

The HSE Inspector said:
"One of SAFC’s employees has suffered burns that will affect him for the rest of his life, and has so far been unable to return to work due to the extent of his injuries. The procedure the company had for dealing with waste produced from the TMI purification process was inadequate, and staff were not sufficiently supervised or monitored. The chemical they were handling was spontaneously combustible on contact with water or air, but SAFC did not have a suitable risk assessment in place that complied with the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations for managing the extreme risks. The chemical industry has the potential to be extremely dangerous, which is why it’s vital the highest standards of health and safety are followed. SAFC fell well below those standards in this case."

Source: HSE 29th April 2013

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