A Tyne and Wear engineering company has been sentenced by Newcastle Crown Court, and fined £150,000 for health and safety breaches at work.
The prosecution against PSL Worldwide Projects Ltd resulted from a workplace accident in July 2014 due to which two employees suffered severe chemical burns. The two men had been cleaning a pipe system at a site in Cramlington, Northumberland, when a chemical reaction occurred between the Sodium Hydroxide granules they were using and some water.
The reaction caused the cleaning solution to heat up and create pressure within a hose. The hose disengaged from its mounting and sprayed both men with the chemical solution – one suffering life-threatening burns to his back, arms, legs and head. The second man suffered slightly less serious burns to his back, left arm and head.
The accident was investigated by inspectors from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). The inspectors found that an inadequate risk assessment had been conducted that led to the two men being provided with a hose not suitable for carrying out the work. It was also discovered that neither of the two men had been provided with adequate personal protective equipment.
The company was prosecuted for health and safety breaches at work that caused an avoidable accident. PSL Worldwide Projects pleaded not guilty to the charge of breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, but were found guilty at Bedlington Magistrates´ Court last November. The case was subsequently referred to Newcastle Crown Court for sentencing.
At the sentencing hearing, judges heard that PSL Worldwide Projects Ltd had subsequently gone into liquidation. Although unable to order costs against the company, the judges issued a fine of £150,000 for the health and safety breaches at work. Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Laura Catterall said:
“If a suitable risk assessment had been undertaken it would have identified that the equipment being used was not right for the chemicals or the work being carried out. All companies who work with high hazard chemicals should learn from this case and ensure that their workers are properly protected.”