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Total fined over UK refinery worker’s sulphur burns

15 June 2015

The Total Lindsey Oil Refinery in North Lincolnshire has been fined after a worker suffered serious burns when he stepped into an open manway lid and hit molten sulphur below. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted the refinery, one of Britain’s largest, after an investigation following the incident on 18 October 2013.

Lindsey Refinery - Photo: Andy Beecroft
Lindsey Refinery - Photo: Andy Beecroft

Grimsby Magistrates heard on June 12 that tanker driver Jack Vickers, 51, from Immingham, had just finished loading the dangerous substance into the vehicle and was attempting to detach the special loading lance from a loading arm when his foot went into the open lid and into the tanker.

He managed to pull himself out but the 140 degree molten sulphur caused serious burns to his right leg. Vickers was unable to work for three months and needed extensive skin grafts.

HSE told the court that Total had no effective safe system of work in place in relation to the attaching and detaching of the loading lance. The hazard of working on top of the tanker had not been adequately identified or assessed.

HSE served an Improvement Notice on the company to make sure safety systems for loading were improved. Total then installed a new articulated loading arm on the unit loading area, meaning a loading lance no longer needs to be attached or detached during loading operations.

Total Lindsey Oil Refinery, East Field Road, North Killingholme, North Lincolnshire, was fined £20,000 and ordered to pay £2,641 in costs with a victim surcharge of £120, after admitting a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Jayne Towey said:
“Mr Vickers sustained extremely painful injuries, which still affect him now. Yet this incident could have been avoided if Total had identified the dangers associated with attaching and detaching the loading lance and then taken action to reduce those risks.”

“Loading molten sulphur is a common task within the refining industry. Total had two other loading units on site with a different system whereby a loading lance does not have to be attached to the loading arm.”

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