An Essex worker was injured while working at an aerospace company in November 2011. The 39 year old man, who has asked not to be named, was cleaning out a tank that contained caustic soda. While cleaning some of the sodium hydroxide crystals were flicked into his face causing burns to his eye lid and his tear duct. The accident happened at Infinite Engineering Ltd, based in Chelmsford.
The worker would have had more serious injuries to his eyes if it wasn’t for the quick reaction of his workmates. He was taken quickly to hospital where he received emergency treatment, helping to reduce the damage caused by the chemical burn. The Health and Safety Executive investigated the accident and found there were some problems that resulted in the firm being prosecuted for their failings.
Removal of Protective Eyewear Resulted in Chemical Burn Injury
The employee was stood inside a large tank that contained a crystalline material mainly made up from caustic soda. He was trying to remove some of the solidified material, chipping away at it while wearing a protective eye mask. During the work the mask had misted over making it difficult for him to see. The man removed the protection and some of the caustic soda flicked up and hit his eyelid. Had the caustic soda touched his actual eye he would have suffered from permanent damage and had his vision impaired.
Infinite Engineering Ltd, who have sites in Stansted, Manchester and Chelmsford, should have taken further steps to expose their employee from the risks that come with working with hazardous chemicals and materials. The HSE also discovered that the man was at risk of falling from the storage tank, or inside it and there wasn’t adequate steps taken to reduce these risks. He could have also been killed if he had falling into an adjacent tank that contained a solution of sodium cyanide.
£17,000 Fine for Failings
The Health and Safety Executive decided to prosecute the aerospace firm based on their findings. The company admitted the breaches of section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act. They were ordered to pay £3,246 in court costs and were fined £17,000 for their failings. The accident could have been completely prevented if the company had assessed the risks fully and put the proper safety measures in place. The firm could have used the risk assessment to decide if the skills required for the job could be found in-house or if contractors were needed. They should have provided the worker with better protection and given him training and the right equipment needed to carry out such a specialist task.
Health and safety services can highlight the activities and necessary steps you need to take when working with hazardous materials. If you would like to find out how to prevent accidents and work within the law contact the health and safety consultants on: 0800 1488 677.