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January 25, 2007

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Corus fined GBP 1.3 million for furnace deaths

Steelmaking giant Corus UK has been fined £1.333 million and ordered to pay £1.74 million in full costs following the death of three steel workers in a massive blast furnace explosion at the company’s Port Talbot site.

Stephen Galsworthy, Andrew Hutin and Leonard Radford were fatally injured in a huge explosion within blast furnace number five at the Corus works on 8 November 2001.

The company pleaded guilty at Swansea Crown Court on 15 December to breaching s2(1) and s3(1) of HSWA 1974 by failing to ensure the safety of employees and contractors. The fine was not broken down according to each charge.

The court heard that the explosion was caused by water coming into sudden contact with hot material in the centre of the blast furnace. As the water turned into steam it expanded rapidly, creating pressure, which blew the confined vessel apart.

Terry Rose, HSE director for Wales, commented: “The proper design, maintenance and operation of the water cooling system is vital to the safe operation of the furnace and the ability to detect, and stop, water leaking into the furnace in quantity is very important. Corus failed to do this in relation to blast furnace five.”

Corus said in a statement issued after the case: “We have always maintained that an explosion of the type and magnitude that occurred was neither foreseen, nor was it foreseeable, and this has been accepted by the prosecution.

“We constantly strive to improve health and safety at every level, and we realise that we can never stop learning in our journey to zero accidents.”

Rose said after the case that as far as the HSE can establish, an explosion of this magnitude was unprecedented in any blast furnace anywhere in the world.

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