Company Prosecuted Over Worker Burns

Man Injured By Accident Involving Molten Plastic

29.10.2014

A plastic mouldings firm from County Durham has been prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after one of its staff suffered burn injuries at work.

The incident in September 2013 led to 47-year-old staff member John Calcutt suffering burns to his face, hand and arm as he and a colleague cleared solidified plastic from an injection moulding machine at Ebac, which is situated in Newton Aycliffe.

As he carried out the work, molten plastic was squirted out by the machine into his face and onto his arms, causing serious burns. He spent three days in hospital and is still receiving treatment, although he has been able to return to work.

The HSE investigation found there were a number of safety failings that contributed to the accident.

Mr Calcutt had not been given any formal training in clearing blockages from the machine and neither he nor his colleague were given any form of equipment to protect the face or eyes.

In addition, Ebac had failed to carry out a risk assessment of the possible hazards to staff as they cleaned blockages out of the moulding machines.

Ebac pleaded guilty in the hearing at Darlington Magistrates' Court to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. It was fined £7,500 and ordered to pay £770.10 in costs, as well as a victim surcharge of £750.

Commenting on the case, HSE inspector Victoria Wise said: "This incident could have been easily prevented if Ebac Ltd had a safe system of work in place for dealing with blockages.

"The potential for ejection of hot molten plastic is highlighted in the industry's own guidance and this was a foreseeable risk that should have been part of the risk assessment process for clearing blockages."

According to HSE figures, over the last five years there have been around 4,500 serious workplace accidents a year on average, with 19,500 a year that kept people off work for three or more days.

Expert Opinion
Employers have a duty to ensure that work carried out by employees is done in a safe manner which includes undertaking an appropriate risk assessment before the task is carried out and implementing any health and safety measures deemed necessary to safeguard workers. In this instance, a worker suffered severe burns as a safe system of work was not put in place.

“It is vital that employers learn lessons following this successful Health and Safety Executive prosecution and they realise how important it is to comply with health and safety legislation to protect workers from such incidents in the future especially in instances like this where workers are exposed to hot or hazardous materials.”
Neil Whiteley, Partner