A FACTORY worker from Huddersfield has been awarded almost £6,000 compensation following an explosion which left him temporarily blind.
Technician John Houghton, 56, from Kirkburton, could not see for three days after a pipe full of caustic cleaning chemicals exploded in his face at the Coca Cola plant in West Yorkshire.
A colleague at the factory in Wakefield had accidently stepped on a pipe full of hot chemicals which were used to clean the machinery for making Coke.
A defective clamp securing the pipe gave way causing the pipe to burst into Mr Houghton’s face.
Following the accident, in December 2010, Mr Houghton was taken to hospital where his eyes were rinsed out – but he remained blind for three days.
Once the swelling had reduced his full eyesight returned although Mr Houghton was left with burns to his left shoulder and upper left leg which has been left scarred.
Investigations by Thompson’s Solicitors, acting on behalf of Mr Houghton’s union Unite, revealed Coca Cola had failed to carry out regular inspections on the pipe and its fittings.
Coca Cola admitted liability and settled the claim out of court .
Mr Houghton, who still works at the factory, said: “I was terrified I would never be able to see again.
“You hear about people being blinded by caustic acid and that was my worst fear.
“Fortunately the hospital was fantastic and was able to treat me quickly and my sight has recovered.
“I wouldn’t want anyone else to go through what I went through and I hope my employers have learnt from this accident.”
Keely Goldup, from Thompson’s Solicitors, said: “Coca Cola failed to run a safe workplace and allowed a defective pipe to remain in use.
“Mr Houghton suffered significant and painful injuries but also went through the trauma of thinking that he might lose his sight. He is very fortunate that he didn’t.”
Karen Reay, from Unite, added: “Coca Cola should know better than to allow inspections on equipment to lapse in this manner.”
A Coca-Cola Enterprises spokesperson said: “We take the wellbeing of our employees very seriously as part of our ‘safety first’ culture.
“We continuously invest in our resources, processes and equipment to ensure that we minimise the risk of accidents happening and are proud of the strong safety record at Wakefield.
"This was an isolated incident which was investigated thoroughly to ensure we understood what happened and then changed our maintenance procedures to ensure such an accident does not happen again.
“Clearly, we are pleased that John has recovered from this incident and is back at work at our site.”