A Windermere garage has been fined after a mechanic was badly burned while trying to cut the top off an empty oil drum.
The 26-year-old from the town was using a propane torch to remove the lid when the remaining oil inside the drum set alight, causing an explosion. He suffered burns to his hands and arms, and was kept in hospital for five days.
The owner of Windermere Auto Centre, Kankku Ltd, was today (15 January 2013) prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) following the incident at the Victoria Street garage on 27 July 2011.
Kendal Magistrates’ Court heard that the employees at the garage cut the tops off empty oil drums approximately once every three months so that they could be used to store scrap metal.
However, the company failed to consider the risk of the propane torch creating and igniting a vapour from the small amount of oil remaining in the drums.
Kankku Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 6(1) of the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002 by failing to minimise the risks to which employees were exposed.
Keith Bevan – Development Manager at Suresite describes this as a common failing in understanding responsibilities “With so many safety considerations in the Workshop environment it can be difficult for an owner or manager to fully understand the issues. Suresite have provided DSEAR Risk Assessments for 20 years across the UK and our tailored Workshop Module can help satisfy these complex and extending legislations.”
The company, of Victoria Street in Windermere, was fined £6,000 and ordered to pay £4,746 in prosecution costs. Kankku Ltd was also ordered to pay £500 in compensation to the injured worker.
Keith goes on to say – “The costs in this case were over £11,000 and this was a very lucky escape. Whilst we can’t stop people taking risks we can prevent them being ignorant to the dangers. A Workshop Risk Assessment could have been completed from as little as £400 and provided peace of mind to the owner and employees.”
Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Anthony Banks said:
“There were several ways the top could have been cut off the oil drum safely, but the company should have considered whether it needed to do this in the first place.
“It would have been much more sensible to use another container to store scrap metal at the garage, rather than using a drum which still had small amounts of a flammable substance inside.
“Sadly, these types of incidents are all too common, and it’s only luck that the mechanic wasn’t more seriously injured or even killed in the explosion.”
Information on working safely with flammable substances is available at www.hse.gov.uk/fireandexplosion.