Steel company fined £1m over “life changing” burns
One of the UK divisions of a multinational steel manufacturing company has been fined £1m after a worker suffered “life changing” injuries in an explosion at its Sheffield plant.
Sheffield Crown Court heard an in-house contractor had fitted a valve to an oxygen pipe at Sheffield Forgemasters Engineering Limited’s steel forging site in August 2013. The 57-year-old employee was carrying out checks when he heard hissing from the valve, but as he investigated the noise, the pipe and valve erupted in flames.
The worker suffered severe third degree burns and was initially not expected to survive. He was kept in a coma for several weeks and had to undergo several skin grafts.
HSE’s investigation found the pipe – which carried pure oxygen – had been fitted with contaminated second-hand flanges and a butterfly valve containing materials unsuitable for use with oxygen.
The court heard it was foreseeable work would at some point need to be undertaken on the oxygen pipelines that ran across the entire site, yet Sheffield Forgemasters Engineering had not taken any action to take control of the line where the worker was injured or to implement training or levels of responsibility for the management of such work.
Sheffield Forgemasters Engineering Ltd, which manufactures castings and forgings for the power generation, defence and nuclear industries, pleaded guilty to breaching section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
The company, which is part of the global group Sheffield Forgemasters International, was ordered to pay prosecution costs of £58,000.45, in addition to the fine.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Carol Downes said: “This incident could have been avoided if simple checks had been carried out.”
“Dutyholders should be aware that HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those that fall below the require standard.”
In December 2013, another division of the company, Sheffield Forgemasters Steel Ltd, was fined £120,000 after an employee died of carbon monoxide poisoning while working in a cellar at its Sheffield steel foundry in May 2008.