The coal briquette manufacturing company Maxibrite was recently before Pontypridd Magistrates after pleading guilty to breaches of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
Magistrates heard how, on 16th December 2012, a fire had broken out in a tower housing a rotary drier on the company´s manufacturing plant in Llantrisant. After several attempts to control the fire by hosing the tower had failed, Maxibrite works manager Simon Gilbody and an employee – Carl Lewis – had attempted to open an inspection hatch at the bottom of the tower to release any obstruction.
As Carl opened the inspection hatch, burning cinders and hot coals cascaded out of the opening – burning Simon´s neck, face and chest. Carl too was injured by the hot coals cascading through the inspection hatch and had to later undergo a skin graft operation for his severe burns. Fortunately Simon´s injuries were not too serious, and he was not admitted to hospital after receiving treatment from the emergency services who attended the accident.
An investigation into the cause of the accident and the injuries to the two men was conducted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE); who found that Maxibrite had neither carried out a risk assessment for the possibility of the rotary drier starting a fire in the tower nor instructed employees on the procedures to follow in the event of a fire. They also discovered that no training had been provided for employees who may be using fire-fighting equipment.
Maxibrite was prosecuted by the HSE for breaches of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations; and, at Pontypridd Magistrates’ Court the company pleaded guilty to both charges. Pontypridd Magistrates fined the company a total of £20,000 for their negligence towards health and safety at work and ordered Maxibrite to pay £5,115 in costs.
Speaking after the Magistrates had announced the fine, HSE inspector Steve Lewis commented that Simon and Carl – the two employees burned in the accident – could have suffered far worse injuries because of Maxibrite´s negligence. He urged all employers to inform staff of the proper procedures to follow should a fire break out at work.