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Engineering Company Fined for Chemical Burn Injuries at Work

An engineering company has been fined £150,000 by Newcastle Crown Court for health and safety failings that resulted in chemical burn injuries at work.

Earlier this week, judges at Newcastle Crown Court heard that – on 31 July 2014 – two men working on behalf of PSL Worldwide Projects Ltd suffered chemical burn injuries at work while cleaning a pipe system at a site in Cramlington, Northumberland.

The judges were told that a chemical reaction occurred between the Sodium Hydroxide granules they were using and some water, causing the cleaning solution to heat up and create pressure within the hose. The hose detached from its mounting and sprayed both men with the solution.

One of the men suffered life-threatening chemical burn injuries at work – his back, buttocks, arms, leg, and one side of his face being burned by the cleaning solution. The second man also suffered chemical burn injuries at work to his head, neck, back, left arm and behind his right ear.

The HSE investigated the accident and found that an inadequate risk assessment had been conducted. Because of the inadequate risk assessment, the two men had been provided with a hose not suitable for the job and insufficient personal protective equipment.

PSL Worldwide Projects was prosecuted by the HSE for health and safety failings that resulted in chemical burn injuries at work. The company was found guilty of breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 at Bedlington Magistrates´ Court last November.

Sentencing was referred to Newcastle Crown Court and, at the end of the hearing, the judges fined PSL Worldwide Projects £150,000. HSE inspector Laura Catterall commented: “If a suitable risk assessment had been undertaken it would have identified that the equipment being used was not right for the chemicals or the work being carried out. All companies who work with high hazard chemicals should learn from this case and ensure that their workers are properly protected.”