Highway safety products supplier failed to purge flammable residues

A company fined £660,000 after a worker suffered life threatening injuries when a ‘nominally empty’ drum, which had contained a flammable substance, exploded in August 2012. The company supplies vehicle restraint systems (VRS), road safety products and services for use on high speed trunk roads and lower speed municipal roads.

Maidstone Crown Court heard how the workman was using a plasma cutter to cut up a drum that had previously contained a flammable substance. He suffered life threatening injuries when the drum exploded in his face causing complex head and brain injuries. He has permanently lost vision in his right eye and now has very limited vision in his left eye.

Small residue can create flammable atmosphere

The firm pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and was fined £660,000 and ordered to pay costs of £33,358.46.

HSE said.

“This workman has been left with devastating injuries that will impact on the rest of his and his family’s lives. This incident could have resulted in a fatality.

If a welding torch or plasma cutter is used on a tank or drum that has contained or contains a flammable substance, it can explode. It only takes a small amount of residue to create a potentially flammable atmosphere.”