A foundry manager suffered serious burns at a Leicester aluminium castings firm because he was not wearing suitable gloves.
During a routine mould casting procedure at Harrison Castings on 20 August 2007, Gordon Fowkes, 62, was burned by a blowback of molten metal as he released a plug so that metal could pour into the mould.
“As he released the plug, the bush blew, scattering molten metal everywhere,” Munera Sidat, the HSE inspector who jointly investigated the incident and prosecuted it in court, told SHP. “Because he was wearing rigger gloves instead of foundry gauntlets, his injuries were much more serious, as the molten metal permeated through the gloves and up the sleeves of his jacket on to his arms, because the gloves were too short.”
Mr Fowkes sustained serious burns to his hands and arms, which required a number of skin grafts and a five-hour operation. “Where the company failed was in allowing employees to choose what protective gear they wore, if any,” the inspector observed.
Four weeks after the incident, the HSE revisited the site and was “horrified” to find that despite the serious burns to the foundry manager, other people were still not wearing gloves. Said inspector Sidat: “The firm should have done a purpose risk assessment of the suitability of gloves and specified what PPE was to be worn for each task.”
In mitigation, Harrison Castings said it was a family-owned business that had been operating for over 100 years. It deeply regretted the incident, which it had reported without delay, and had cooperated fully with the HSE investigation.
The firm was fined a total of £5300 and ordered to pay £2134 in full costs, plus £2000 compensation to Mr Fowkes for loss of income, after pleading guilty to breaching reg.6(1) of the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 by failing to assess the suitability of gloves provided for staff use; and reg.10(1) of the same Regulations by failing to ensure that personal protective equipment provided for employees was properly used. It was fined £3300 on the first charge and £2000 on the second.
Inspector Sidat concluded: “I hope the case will serve as a reminder to employers and to managers who have specific responsibility for protective equipment that the safety of their staff is paramount, and they have a duty to ensure the right equipment is provided for the right job.”
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