11 January 2016
University Fined After Cluster Bomblet Injures Employee
A university has been fined after an employee was almost killed whilst dismantling a cluster bomblet.
On 4 February 2011, three employees from the Explosives Research Section at the Defence Academy of Cranfield University in Bedfordshire were attempting to deactivate former military cluster munitions when a bomblet exploded, seriously injuring one of the team.
Together with lacerations to his face and shoulder and nerve damage to his right hand, the employee suffered severe chest and abdominal injuries and had to undergo emergency surgery to remove a metal shard from his colon.
Following the incident, a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found that although the three employees were deactivating the lethal munitions for future use in demonstrations, no suitable risk assessment had been conducted beforehand and the university’s management team were unaware of the work taking place.
After pleading guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 Section 2(1); and Section 4(1) of the Manufacture And Storage of Explosives Regulations 2005, Cranfield university was fined £80,000 with costs of £75,000.
Cranfield University has world recognised expertise in explosives and munitions but unfortunately on this occasion, their safety management standards were not as high as they should have been.
Cluster bomblets carry more explosives than anti-personnel landmines and the hundreds of metal fragments they contain are designed to penetrate tank armour within a radius of up to 25 metres. Clearly, when these weapons explode, anybody unfortunate enough to be in the immediate blast area is either going to be killed or suffer life-changing shrapnel injuries.
The employee in this case was incredibly fortunate he wasn’t more seriously injured and it is work accidents like this that illustrate just how important it is employers ensure adequate risk assessments are performed each time any dangerous work activity is allowed to take place.
Matthew Tomlinson is a senior personal injury solicitor specialising in work accident compensation claims for Slater and Gordon Lawyers in Sheffield.
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