A company in the north-west of England has been heavily fined by the Preston Crown Court after an employee was seriously injured in an explosion at work.
Mr Karol Robaczewski, 38, worked for Fuel Proof Limited until his accident on 9 September 2011. On the day in question Mr Robaczewski was cleaning a 20,000 litre fuel tank for airplanes by rubbing the inside of the tanks with a cloth to which he applied a highly-flammable solvent. The inside of the tank was extremely dark so workers would generally use torches or lamps to light the areas they were working. Whilst he was working Mr Robaczewski became concerned that the lamp he was using was becoming too hot and pulled the lamp plug out of the electrical socket. This, however, unfortunately produced a spark and ignited the fumes from the solvent. This caused a fireball in the tank, consuming Mr Robaczewski, and melting his visor and his protective suit. As a result he suffered serious burns to his entire body and had to be hospitalized for over three months. He is now almost completely paralysed as a result of the accident.
It is currently not known whether Mr Robaczewski has or will claim personal injury in the civil courts as a result of his injuries. It is unlikely that he will ever be able to return to work as a result of his injuries.
The Health and Safety Executive were notified of the accident and subsequently commenced an investigation. This investigation found that there had been numerous health and safety failings by the company, including a failure to implement a safe system of work; a failure to carry out risk assessments; a failure to adequately supervise employees; and a failure to provide adequate protective equipment. The Health and Safety Executive therefore recommended that a prosecution of the company be instigated for breaches of health and safety regulations.
The case came before the Preston Crown Court on 29 October 2013. Fuel Proof Ltd pleaded guilty to a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and was fined £66,000 and ordered to pay £25,000 towards the prosecution’s costs as a result. Neither the company nor its criminal defence solicitors appear to have commented after the hearing.
HSE Inspector Ms Rose Leese-Weller stated after after hearing: “It is shocking that Fuel Proof allowed workers to use a highly flammable solvent to clean the inside of fuel tanks for four years without giving a single thought to the risks. What’s even more appalling is that there was never any need for workers to use solvents to clean the tanks, as the company now uses soapy water to clean them out.”
Chris Hadrill, a solicitor at Redmans, commented on the case: “Businesses have an obligation to implement a safe system of work for their employees in order to prevent harm coming to either their workers and/or third parties. A failure to do so can be a costly mistake – both for the employer and any injured employees.”
Redmans Solicitors are a firm of employment solicitors in Hounslow