30 April 2013
Fireball man could claim against former employer
A Wirral chemical firm's supervisory oversight that led to an employee being set on fire could have legal action launched against it by its former employee.
SAFC Hitech's Wirral factory helps supply the semiconductor and LED industry with trimethylindium, which if exposed to even a tiny amount of air or water, can cause a large, destructive explosion.
The injured employee, who wishes to remain anonymous, but is understood to be a 45-year old from Kirby, Merseyside, was coming in to start his shift for the day after taking over from another employee when the incident occurred.
Waste left from the trimethylindium purification process was left to deactivate in an unsealed glass bottle when the worker started his shift. Before the worker had time to notice the errant chemical, it exploded, sending a huge fireball and glass fragments around the room.
The affected employee doesn't remember the accident, but another worker who witnessed the accident said that the man was engulfed in flames and was running around trying to extinguish the flames.
Immediately upon putting out the fire, colleagues phoned for an ambulance, and the worker was taken to a specialist burns unit at a local hospital where he was induced into a coma that lasted seven weeks.
Although the man has now been released from the hospital after being subjected to extensive, permanent scarring and injuries that make moving around extremely difficult, he has been unable to return to work and has lost significant earnings.
After a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation, the man's employers, SAFC Hitech, was prosecuted by the authority for failing to carry out proper risk assessments, not providing enough supervision and ultimately not doing enough to ensure the safety of employees.
SAFC Hitech pleaded guilty to the offences and was fined £120,000 and ordered by a judge at Liverpool Crown Court to pay £13,328 in legal costs.
HSE Inspector Semra Zack-Williams said: "One of SAFC’s employees has suffered burns that will affect him for the rest of his life, and has so far been unable to return to work due to the extent of his injuries."
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Posted by Chris Stevenson