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Steel giant in court over employee’s burns in molten metal fire

Global steel firm, Tata, has been fined after three of its employees sustained serious burns after molten metal spilled onto the factory floor and ignited.

What happened?

Trainee crane operator, Kelvin Watts, had been operating an electric overhead crane whilst supervised by two experienced trainers when the incident happened in April 2013.

He had picked up a ladle containing 300 tonnes of molten metal using the crane, and had asked for confirmation that one of the hooks was properly connected to the ladle, as the crane’s camera system wasn’t working.

When he was advised that the hook wasn’t fully attached he stopped the crane – but the ladle dislodged, spilling the molten metal on the factory floor.

A fire then broke out within the room, causing the three men severe burns as they tried to escape to safety.

Mr Watts spent several days in hospital due to his injuries, and has since suffered repeated infections and has been unable to return to work.

Though his two colleagues were less severely burnt, they have not been able to face driving the cranes or entering the area since the incident occurred.

What was the outcome?

An investigation into the incident found that Tata Steel UK Ltd hadn’t taken satisfactory steps to ensure the safety of its workforce.

Not only had the crane’s camera system had not been broken for some time, the lighting cut out completely during the incident as did the control systems.

Additionally, training documents were ambiguous and instructions were not communicated to all drivers.
Tata Steel Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, and was fined £200,000 and ordered to pay costs of £11,190.

HSE Inspector, Joanne Carter, said:

“There was clear evidence at Tata Steel of poor maintenance,
inconsistent training and managers misunderstanding
the problems faced by operators.

“Given the potential consequences of a ladle holding 300 tonnes
of molten metal spilling its load onto the floor, control
measures should be watertight. The incident could
have been avoided had the safety measures
introduced afterwards been in place
at the time.”

If you have been affected by an accident at work, and you would like expert advice, contact Hampson Hughes Solicitors today on 0800 888 6888 or email

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