25 February 2015
Tata Steel Ltd Sentenced after Burn Accident at Work
Global steel firm Tata has been prosecuted after three employees suffered serious burns in a terrifying work accident in April 2013.
Swansea Crown Court heard how a trainee crane driver and two colleagues were lucky to escape with their lives after tonnes of molten metal spilled onto the factory floor and caught fire.
The trainee crane driver was operating an electric overhead crane and had just picked up a full ladle containing around 300 tonnes of molten metal when the accident occurred at Tata Strip Products in Port Talbot.
When he asked for confirmation that the ladle was properly secured as he was unable to see for himself due to a broken camera system, he was told by the plant control system that one of the hooks was not fully attached.
Despite stopping the crane and putting it into reverse, the ladle dislodged and spilled its entire contents over the floor. Seconds later, the molten metal ignited, and the driver along with two experienced trainers who were supervising the work, were engulfed in flames.
Unable to escape from the top of the burning crane cab in time, the crane driver suffered severe burn injuries to his head and forearms and spent a number of days in hospital with repeated infections.
Although his two colleagues escaped with lesser burns they have been unable to face driving cranes nor enter the area where the Work Accident Injuries took place.
Following a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) work accident investigation, Tata Steel UK Ltd were prosecuted for failing to take reasonable steps to ensure the safety of their workforce.
Amongst a number of failings, the investigation found that the crane’s camera system had been broken for some time despite a number of reports and pre-use checks. In addition, the lighting in the area was found to be inadequate and the training manuals and instructions given to drivers were unclear.
Tata Steel Ltd, of Millbank, London, was fined £200,000 and ordered to pay costs of £11,190 after pleading guilty to a breach of Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
The use of overhead cranes can put workers at risk of serious injury particularly when molten metals are involved. Employers have a duty to ensure all lifting operations are carried out safely, their staff are properly trained and supervised and that all protective equipment and machinery is maintained to the highest possible standards.
Control measures when working with 300 tonnes of molten metal obviously need to be 100% watertight. Unfortunately, it is clear that on this occasion, staff were let down by their employer’s failure to introduce the proper safety measures they have since put in place.
Matthew Tomlinson is a Senior Personal Injury Lawyer specialising in work accident compensation claims at Slater and Gordon Lawyers UK.
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