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Firm fined after worker suffers burns

Posted in: Employer Negligence Workplace Injuries 

Aluminium powder reacted with water in an industrial vacuum cleaner to create hydrogen gas that exploded and burned a worker, a court has heard.

A Staffordshire research and development company was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) following the incident at its site.

A 27-year-old employee suffered burns to the top of his body and was in hospital for two weeks. He was off work for three months before returning to work for the company.

Stafford Magistrates’ Court heard the specialist vac had been used to clean up aluminium powder before being left to stand over a weekend.

The powder reacted with water used in the machine to create hydrogen gas that exploded when the worker switched it on.

An HSE investigation found that had the company undertaken a proper risk assessment, it would have identified that a reaction could be caused by mixing metal powder with the water inside the cleaner.

It was fined £7,000 and ordered to pay £6,397 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching Regulation 5 (1) of the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002.

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