In October 2012, a Petroineos employee was carrying out a cleaning operation on a vent pipe and while opening a vent valve on a walkway 25 meters above ground, was sprayed in the face by low pressure steam.
Despite wearing regulation personal protective equipment including a hard hat and safety glasses the worker was left injured and disorientated, and as he was working so high up, in danger of possibly falling from the platform, though there was handrails attached to the platform.
Such was the victim’s disorientation, colleagues who had come to the injured man’s aid had to physically restrain him until a crane rescue was initiated to get the injured man off the platform.
The man required an overnight stay in hospital and follow-up treatment for six weeks, suffered initial blurred vision, and has been left with a small scar on his forehead.
Falkirk Sheriff Court heard the subsequent Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation revealed a failing by the accused in the risk assessment process which had not identified the potential hazard of the discharge of steam directly towards an operator.
The court was told simple steps could have been taken to eliminate the hazard such as fitting a short pipe extension to ensure any steam was discharged safely away from the operator.
Independent crude oil refiner, Petroineos Manufacturing Scotland Ltd of Grangemouth Oil Refinery, Bo’ness Road, Grangemouth (previously known as Ineos Manufacturing Scotland Limited), pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 12(1) of The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998, and Section 33(1)(c) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and was fined £24,000.
After the hearing HSE investigating inspector Christina Woodrow said: “This incident emphasises the need for employers to assess the risks from routine tasks in the location they will be carried out and to ensure where practicable that risks from emissions are controlled at source other than relying on personal protective equipment.
“Employers should not assume that when a procedure is carried out without incident that it is safe only a rigorous approach to hazard identification and risk assessment will ensure this.”