Fines For Firm Following Workers Narrow Escape From Explosion

A Dozen Employees Hospitalised Following Incident Involving Industrial Oven

12.03.2015

A West Yorkshire firm has been fined for safety breaches following an explosion that resulted in the hospitalisation of a number of employees.

An industrial oven exploded only minutes after workers had left the area. A HSE investigation found a number of failing on the part of employer and factory owner Flexitallic Ltd. The incident destroyed the oven and caused extensive damage to the roof of the factory. 

Huddersfield Magistrates Court heard that critical instrumentation had failed a year before the explosion in March 2013, and had never been repaired, resulting in 'an incident waiting to happen'.

Flexitallic Ltd of Cleckheaton, West Yorkshire, was fined £10,000 and an additional £1,588 in costs after pleading guilty to a breach of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

After the hearing, the investigating HSE inspector John Micklethwaite said: "This was a catastrophic explosion which blew the sinter oven into pieces. Had anyone been in the vicinity, we could have been investigating fatalities and serious injuries.

"That night the dryer cut out, as it had occasionally before, but it wasn’t spotted because the night shift workers did not normally work in the oven room.

"In addition the company hadn’t identified the risk of an explosion from the flammable vapour if sheets were not totally dry so no effective safeguards had been implemented. It was an incident that could have, and should have, been avoided."

Expert Opinion
The manufacturing industry is one of the most dangerous in the UK and this is a stark example of the problems that can be caused when companies fail to take their responsibilities for the health and safety of their workers seriously. A number of people were hospitalised following the explosion and HSE investigators found there could have been more serious injuries or fatalities.

“It is crucial businesses understand their responsibilities when it comes to health and safety in the workplace, which means maintaining equipment, carrying out risk assessments and ensuring any problems identified are mitigated with safety measures to prevent incidents like this in the future.”
Stephen Nye, Partner