An engineering company’s failure to undertake a correct risk assessment of its working practices led to two of its employees suffering life threatening injuries from chemical burns and the company being fined £150,000.
PSL Worldwide Projects Ltd was sentenced this month by Newcastle Court for safety breaches which took place in July 2014.
Newcastle Crown Court heard how the workers had been using Sodium Hydroxide granules to clean a pipe system. A reaction occurred between the chemicals and water in the system that caused the liquid to heat up building up pressure in the hose. The hose detached, spraying both workers with the solution.
One operative received life threatening burns to his back, buttocks, arms, leg, neck and one side of his face. The other worker received burns to the right side of his head, neck, and back, left arm and right ear.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) identified that the task had not been adequately risk assessed by PSL Worldwide Projects Ltd. The company had provided equipment, in particular the hosing, which was not suitable for the task. It also found that the company failed to provide adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) to its employees.
PSL Worldwide Projects Ltd of Washington, Tyne and Wear, pleaded not guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 on 28 November 2016 at Bedlington Magistrates Court but they were found guilty and the case was referred to Newcastle Crown Court for sentencing. In January 2017 they were fined £150,000 by Newcastle Crown Court.
After the hearing, HSE inspector Laura Catterall commented: “If a suitable risk assessment had been undertaken it would have identified that the equipment being used was not right for the chemicals or the work being carried out.”
Lara Murray, an Associate and health and safety legal expert with Palmers, said: “Risk assessments exist for a reason – they should not be viewed as simply a box ticking exercise – but should allow companies to identify any risks which might put their employees or members of the public in danger, which in turn could put the company at risk of legal action and loss of reputation.
“In particular, any company which works with hazardous substances should learn from this case and ensure that their workers are properly protected.”