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Managing Director of UK construction company receives suspended sentence after employee burned in 2018 explosion

02 December 2020

The UK’s Health & Safety Executive announced on November 16 that a Managing Director of a construction company has received a suspended sentence after an employee suffered severe burns on a construction site in Swynecombe, Oxfordshire in 2018.

Milton Keynes Magistrates Court heard how Managing Director of MWJ Construction Marcin Wojtas failed to take reasonably practicable precautions for the decommissioning of a petrol tank, which resulted in an explosion.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive into the incident that occurred in July 2018, found that the injured person and another operative were instructed by Wojtas to use an angle grinder to remove the tank lid to speed up the decommissioning of the tank. While performing this task, the petrol vapours within the tank were ignited and an explosion occurred. The injured person sustained burns to 26 per cent of their body.

The investigation also found that Wojtas had been informed by an officer from the Petroleum Enforcing Authority that the work to decommission the fuel tank was a specialised operation and needed to be completed by a competent contractor. Neither operative had any of the training, experience or knowledge required to make them competent.

Wojtas pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and was given a six month suspended sentence and ordered to pay total costs of £8,455.48.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector David Tonge said: “The accident could have been prevented if the work was appropriately planned through an adequate risk assessment. Had this been the case, competent operatives would have conducted the work, the tank would have had its hazardous contents (petrol vapour and petrol) removed safely and equipment appropriate to use around an explosive atmosphere would have been used.”


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