Friday, 22 August 2014

Hartwell Manufacturing fined nearly £18,000 after flashover during the removal of tanks

Hartwell Manufacturing Ltd., was fined  £17,885 (inc. costs) after a worker was severely burned in a flashover during hot-cutting work at the Fox’s Biscuits factory.
The circumstances were:
  • Hartwell Manufacturing had been hired to remove three disused oil tanks at the Fox’s site in February 2012.
  • The task of removing the huge tanks, in particular the means of access into the oil tanks and working in a confined space, had not been properly planned by Hartwells. 
  • In addition its emergency arrangements to evacuate any casualties on site were fundamentally flawed.
  • Hartwell's managing director failed to liaise with Fox’s Biscuits when problems with access to the tanks emerged or when the company wanted to diverge from the agreed plan.
  • Hartwell deviated from a safe system of work it had earlier agreed with Fox’s Biscuits and their site managing firm.  Instead of using cold-cutting equipment, the company had used a high-speed angle grinder, which produces heat and sparks.
  • A Hartwell employee was using an angle grinder to cut a hole in one of the tanks, which had only recently been drained of fuel, when sparks ignited flammable vapours causing flames to erupt.
  • In a panic, he inserted a high pressure water lance into a pipe opening to try to put out the fire but instead caused a blow-back of flames to be ejected from the opening, engulfing his lower body in flames.
  • Another worker at the scene rushed to the injured man’s aid, putting out his burning clothes with a fire extinguisher. 
  • He suffered extensive burns and needed prolonged treatment and rehabilitation.

The HSE Inspector said:
“This worker suffered exceedingly painful burn injuries that could have been avoided if Hartwell Manufacturing had followed a safe system of work and not used the angle grinder.  The company used a dangerous working practice on the site unbeknown to Fox’s Biscuits. Work with flammable vapours must always be effectively controlled. If problems are encountered, you need to stop and reassess – not press on and use unsafe equipment which introduces an unacceptable risk of fire and explosion. The job should have been better planned and supervised. At several key points Hartwells failed to take the opportunity to stop the job, take stock and liaise with the occupier to ensure work could go ahead safely.”

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