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GLOBAL STEEL FIRM FINED £1/2M AFTER ‘HORRIFIC’ FATALITY

Reporting system showed a significant number of ‘near misses’ involving steam

Tata Steels UK Ltd has been fined £500,000 after a workman died when he fell into a channel carrying slag waste at 1,500 degrees celsius where covers were removed for maintenance and not replaced in April 2006.

Swansea Crown Court heard that Kevin Downey is believed to have gone to the ‘cast house’ at the site to inspect the slag pool which was due to close for maintenance work. Steam emitted forced him to leave the area and as he retraced his steps (with poor visibility) he fell into the open section of a channel that was running slag. He attempted to climb out and was helped out by workers who heard his cries. Although conscious he died later the same day.

HSE investigators found that:

  • a reporting system showed a significant number of near misses where steam had led to dangerous situations with the potential to injure workers or damage equipment; and
  • it was common practice to operate the furnace with uncovered channels and without taking additional precautions to prevent anyone from falling in.

Mr Downey’s widow, Tanya, said: “We hope that today’s hearing will act as a reminder to all employers that failure to observe basic health and safety issues can have catastrophic consequences. We hope other families will not have to go through the pain we have since his death.”

Fatal combination of circumstances should have been foreseen

Tata Steels UK Ltd, of Millbank, London, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and was fined £500,000 and ordered to pay £57,487 in costs.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Principal Inspector Colin Mew, said:

“The lack of visibility caused by steam and the open runners were a fatal combination which should have been foreseen by the company.

This horrific incident could have been avoided if the company had a system in place to ensure that either no covers were left off the runners or – if they needed to be left off – a temporary barrier was erected around them.

Kevin Downey was an experienced and well respected member of the steel making community in Port Talbot. His courage and quick thinking together with other employees on the occasion of a major explosion on Blast Furnace Number 5 in 2001 almost certainly saved the lives of a number of his colleagues making his death particularly poignant and tragic.”

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One Response to “GLOBAL STEEL FIRM FINED £1/2M AFTER ‘HORRIFIC’ FATALITY”

  1. HSE ENFORCEMENT WEEKLY UPDATE 10th OCTOBER 2012 | PP Construction Safety News Desk Says:

    […] GLOBAL STEEL FIRM FINED £1/2M AFTER ‘HORRIFIC’ FATALITY […]