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TEENAGER ENGULFED IN FLAMES AT CONTRACTOR DEPOT

Spray painting of construction lighting tower ends in ‘horrific’ burns

Construction contractor, O’Keefe Construction (Greenwich) Ltd, has been prosecuted after a teenager suffered burns whilst spraypainting a lighting tower at the company depot in Sevenoaks, Kent on 26 October 2009.

He was using flammable thinners in the process which inadvertently spilled on his trousers. Whilst going to change his clothes he walked near a heater and his clothes ignited. He ran outside where he was helped by colleagues who hosed him down and extinguished the flames.

The young workman suffered burns to both legs, left arm and hand. He was in hospital for 16 days including six days in intensive care. He has undergone skin grafts and unable to work for six months.

Several failings uncovered in the control of fire risk

O’Keefe Construction (Greenwich) Ltd, of St Andrews House, Dreadnought Street, Greenwich, London, pleaded guilty to breaching section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 at Sevenoaks Magistrates’ Court today (15 February) and was fined £20,000. It was ordered to pay costs of £6,329.

HSE investigators found the spray shed lacked as number of proper precautions:

  • paint cans not kept closed and stored in fire-resistant containers; 
  • mixing of paint and thinners in the shed led to a potentially explosive atmosphere;
  • gas burner with an open flame should not have been used in the same space; and
  • controls identified by risk assessment and later review were not implemented even after the incident.

Caroline Penwill, HSE Inspector, said:

“The process of risk management involves assessing the risks that arise in the workplace and putting sensible health and safety measures in place to control them.

In this case, the company had assessed the risks from paint spraying and had identified measures to control the risks, but had not put them in place. It is important that the findings of a risk assessment are acted upon. Had the company done so, then this terrible incident could have been prevented.”

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