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February 15, 2010

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Worker set alight in dust explosion

A Derbyshire technology company failed to put in place suitable control measures to protect employees working with flammable substances.

On 17 October 2007, Paul Gothard, 54, was working as a coating operative at Chromalloy UK Ltd’s factory in Alfreton, Derbyshire. He was loading aluminium treatment powders into an electric power blender, when there was an explosion, and he was hit by a fireball.

He had been using a hose as a vacuum to load the powder into the machine, and it is thought that the powder was ignited by a discharge of static electricity. Mr Gothard’s clothing was set on fire and he suffered burns to his hands, arms, and face. He has been unable to return to work, owing to his injuries.

The HSE’s investigation discovered that the hose, which was being used as a vacuum, was not the original one that was supplied with the machine, and did not have a conductive metal strip to prevent static charges being released. Inspectors also learned that workers had reported receiving static shocks from the hose but nothing had been done to address these concerns.

HSE inspector Noelle Walker said: “Mr Gothard suffered serious burns in this incident and he’s been left with some permanent lack of function in his hand.

“Chromalloy failed to carry out assessments and control risks as required in relation to powdered aluminium, which is an explosive dust.”

Chromalloy UK Ltd appeared at Derby Crown Court on 8 February and pleaded guilty to breaching:

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