£10,000 fine after man injured in blast at Batley biscuit firm

Firm fined £10,000 as worker is burned

Fire crews at Fox's Biscuits

A man was badly burned in a blast at Batley’s famous Fox’s Biscuits factory.

And now the firm which employed the man on a maintenance job has been hit with a fine of £10,000 by magistrates.

The 61-year-old worker was severely burned in a flashover during hot-cutting work on old oil tanks at the factory in Wellington Street.

He was one of a team working for steel fabricators Hartwell Manufacturing Ltd, which had been hired to remove three disused oil tanks.

The worker 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, the worker 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.

Kirklees magistrates were told he suffered extensive burns and needed prolonged treatment and rehabilitation since the incident in February 2012, but has since returned to light duty work.

The Health and Safety Executive investigated and prosecuted Hartwell Manufacturing for safety breaches after discovering the firm had ignored 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 brought in a high-speed angle grinder, which produces heat and sparks, and claimed later it was ‘an oversight’.

The court was told the company’s managing director had 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 by using the hot-cutting, and thereby dangerous, angle grinder.

The firm, of Ossett, was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £7,885 in costs after admitting breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

HSE Inspector John Micklethwaite 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 kept Fox’s Biscuits in the dark and effectively smuggled a dangerous working practice onto the site”.

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