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HOT CUTTING ON OIL TANK ENDS IN SERIOUS BURNS

Steel fabricators used angle grinder to cut “drained” oil tank

Hartwell Manufacturing Ltd has been fined after a worker was severely burned in a flash over during hot-cutting work at a factory in Yorkshire.

The 61-year-old man was one of a team hired to remove three disused oil tanks at the Batley factory site in February 2012.

An angle grinder was used to cut a hole in one of the tanks which had recently been drained of fuel. The sparks ignited flammable vapours causing flames to erupt.

During the ensuing “panic” a workman inserted a high pressure water lance into a pipe opening to try to put out the fire. This caused a blow-back of flames ejected from the opening engulfing his lower body in flames.

Huddersfield Magistrates heard today (12 Aug) that another worker rushed to aim the injured man, putting out his burning clothes with a fire extinguisher. He suffered extensive burns and needed prolonged treatment and rehabilitation.

HSE discovered the firm deviated from a safe system of work agreed with the client. Cold-cutting equipment should have been used rather than a high-speed angle grinder producing heat and sparks.

HSE found that the project not been properly planned and emergency arrangements to evacuate any casualties on site were fundamentally flawed. The company MD failed to liaise with the client when problems with access to the tanks emerged or when the company wanted to diverge from the agreed plan.

Do not “press on” in the face of new risks

Hartwell Manufacturing Ltd, of Milner Way, Ossett, was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £7,885 in full costs after admitting breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

After the hearing, HSE Inspector John Micklethwaite said:

“This worker suffered exceedingly painful burn injuries that could have been avoided if Hartwell Manufacturing had followed a safe system of work and not used the angle grinder. The company used a dangerous working practice on the site unbeknown to Fox’s Biscuits.

Work with flammable vapours must always be effectively controlled. If problems are encountered, you need to stop and reassess – not press on and use unsafe equipment which introduces an unacceptable risk of fire and explosion.

The job should have been better planned and supervised. At several key points Hartwells failed to take the opportunity to stop the job, take stock and liaise with the occupier to ensure work could go ahead safely.”

 

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