Man suffers serious burns in furnace01 August 2012
A Nottinghamshire die-casting firm has admitted failing to communicate a safe system of work to an employee who fell into a furnace.
Keith Buckley was working at Meridian Lightweight Technologies (UK) Ltd’s plant in Sutton-in-Ashfield when the incident took place on 16 May 2011.
The 59-year-old was removing equipment from the top of a magnesium furnace in readiness for the removal of the inner lining. A pump and tube had been removed and the hole was stuffed with a soft wool material.
When he walked across the top of the furnace his right foot went through the wool and into the furnace, which was running at 500oC. His foot became stuck in magnesium melt but he was able to pull his foot out of his boot after the shoelaces burned off.
He suffered serious burns to his leg and required multiple skin grafts. He also burned his right hand as he tried to free himself, and still has problems with gripping. He was unable to return to work for several months and is still only able to perform light duties.
An investigation found that the company had created a written safe system of work, but this had not been communicated to workers. It required the hole to be covered by a metal plate but supervisors at the site had not identified that this procedure was not being implemented.
HSE inspector Sian Tiernan said: “This incident would never have happened if procedures had been effectively communicated and followed. Mr Buckley is very fortunate. If he hadn't managed to release his foot from his boot his injuries would have been far worse, possibly even fatal.
“Just because procedures or safe systems of work are written down does not mean they are being followed. It is vital companies ensure employees have not only been trained in relevant safe systems of work but follow them. Measures must be in place to monitor work practices through effective supervision to ensure short-cuts, or dangerous acts or omissions are picked up before serious incidents occur.”
Meridian Lightweight Technologies appeared at Mansfield Magistrates’ Court on 25 July and pleaded guilty to breaching s2(1) of the HSWA 1974. It was fined £12,000 and ordered to pay £6478 in costs.
In mitigation, the firm said it was an oversight that the system of work had not been communicated to workers. It has subsequently employed additional supervisors to improve the monitoring of work methods at the site.
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