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Firm Fined after Worker Suffers Chemical Burns

A Hampshire based electropolishing firm has been prosecuted following an incident in which an employee suffered chemical burns.

On 13 February 2015, Keith Brown, an employee of Poligrat (UK) Limited, was working at their Aldershot site when he was instructed by his manager to dispose of waste cleaning chemicals. The agreed method to carry out this task was to pour caustic pearl granules into an ‘intermediate bulk container’ (IBC) filled with acid, neutralising the chemicals inside.

Once Mr Brown started to pour the caustic pearl granules into the container, an exothermic reaction took place and the contents of the container erupted over him. Basingstoke Magistrates’ Court heard how Mr Brown was knocked to the ground by the explosion and his glasses were blown off. As a result, the 51 year old suffered ulcers to both corneas and alkaline burns to his eyelids, as well as burns and grazing to both legs.

Following an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) into the incident, it was found that the substances and activity used in the process were not adequately risk assessed.

After pleading guilty to Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, and Regulation 3(1) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, Poligrat (UK) Limited, of Waverley Lane, Farnham, Surrey, was fined £8,000 and ordered to pay costs of £1,072.

HSE inspector Andrew Johnson said after the hearing:

“The use of an IBC as a reaction vessel was wholly inappropriate. IBC’s are designed for the storage of a range of substances. They are not designed for use as a chemical reactor. Other safer reasonably practicable options were available, such as using a waste management company to remove and safely dispose of the chemicals.”

Accident at work – expert advice

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Source: Health & Safety Executive

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