Dairy Accident Leaves Workers Badly Scalded

Chester Firm Fined £54,000 For Safety Failings


Two workers at a dairy factory in Marlston-cum-lache, Cheshire were badly scalded when hot water sprayed out of a 600-litre tank.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that Meadow Foods had failed to properly identify the risks involved in cleaning the vessel and this led to the accident.

The employees, a 22-year-old man and 37-year-old woman, were powerless to stop water that was over 70 degrees Celsius from falling on them from the top of the tank.

A risk assessment had been carried out for this particular task a few months prior to the incident, but the HSE confirmed it did not go into enough detail.

Once the valves had been released, the pressure that had been built up inside the pipes was released into the container, forcing the hot water into the air.

The female employee suffered burns all over her body and spent a week in a specialist burns unit. The male worker was also badly scalded.

Meadow Foods admitted to single breaches of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 and was fined £54,000. It was also ordered to cover costs of £18,553.

HSE inspector Lisa Lewis said the process for cleaning the tank was complicated and the valves had to be opened in a specific sequence in order to do the job safely. The workers were not provided with written instructions on how to complete the task.

"There was simply no point in Meadow Foods carrying out a risk assessment for the work if they weren't going to consider basic risks - like hot water scalding workers - and take action to control them," she commented.

"The firm has since modified the tank to prevent water escaping, reduced the water temperature to 50 degrees, and provided laminated instructions and photos for the workers."

Manufacturing facilities are still among the most dangerous places for people to work in the UK, with HSE statistics showing that 20 people were killed in occupational accidents in 2012-13.

Over the past five years, there has been an average of 4,500 major injuries reported annually across the sector.

Expert Opinion
Health and safety should always be a priority in the workplace and enforcing high standards involves a variety of steps. As well as the use of proper risk assessments for tasks and the provision of safety equipment, a key issue is ensuring that workers are always properly supervised and given the necessary instructions to do their jobs both effectively and safely.

"Employers cannot ignore the importance of this and a case like this demonstrates the consequences which can emerge when failings occur.

"We see numerous cases of this nature and it is vital that every effort is made to ensure lessons are learned which will prevent the same problems from developing in the future."
Stephen Nye, Partner