Company fined for safety breach after blast caused employee serious burns

Police had cordoned off the road for a number of hours. Photo: Matthew Nixon

Police cordoned off the road for a number of hours - Credit: Archant

A flame-proofing company has been fined more than £25,000 after a worker suffered serious injuries as the result of an explosion at its factory in Beccles.

Fabric Flare Solutions Ltd was fined £26,000 and ordered to pay costs of £7,196 by Chelmsford Magistrates' Court last Thursday.

The company pleaded guilty to a single count of failing to discharge its general health, safety and welfare duty to an employee on September 24, 2019.

The East of England Ambulance Service was called to the incident at 9.40am and sent multiple resources, including our hazardous area response team and the East Anglian Air Ambulance.

Police had cordoned off the road for a number of hours. Photo: Matthew Nixon

The cordon perimeter on on September 24, 2019 - Credit: Archant

Police officers also attended the scene to support fire crews.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said employees had been treating fabrics with a water repellent carpet protector, which gave off flammable vapours during the application and drying process.

Investigators said that the flammable vapours ignited, causing an explosion as a 51-year-old employee walked past the spray room.

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The blast was said to have thrown the employees several metres across the factory unit in Gosford Road, Beccles.

He was airlifted to Broomfield Hospital, in Chelmsford, with serious burn injuries to 15% of his body.

Two fire appliances from Beccles and Lowestoft South attended the incident. Photo: Matthew Nixon

Two fire appliances from Beccles and Lowestoft South attended the incident - Credit: Archant

The HSE said a subsequent investigation found that Fabric Flare Solutions Ltd, which has since moved to premises in Pinbush Road, Lowestoft, failed to ensure the safety of employees by not eliminating several sources of ignition in the spray room, including liquid petroleum gas space heaters, domestic light fittings and other electrical equipment.

The company had ignored the clear instruction on the safety data sheet for the substance to be kept away from sources of heat, hot surfaces, sparks, open flames and other ignition sources, the HSE found.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Tim Underwood said: “Employers who handle, store or use flammable substances must consider the potential risk of fire and explosion and ensure they have robust procedures in place to assess and control risk at all times.

“This was a tragic and wholly avoidable incident, caused by the failure of the company to fully assess the risk and implement safe systems of work.”

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