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UK chemical company fined £800,000 for near-fatal explosion

05 December 2022

A chemical company based in Gateshead, northeast England has been fined £800,000 after a worker suffered life-changing injuries in an explosion in August 2020. The 49-year-old employee of International Paint Limited spent eight days in intensive care on life support and has been left with all-over body scarring, partial blindness to one eye, hearing damage, and damage to a knee and shoulder.

Image: Geograph.org.uk / Richard Webb (cc-by-sa/2.0)
Image: Geograph.org.uk / Richard Webb (cc-by-sa/2.0)

The explosion happened on 4 August 2020 at the International Paint facility while the worker was making paint in a large mixing vessel, which involved the use of flammable liquids. An investigation conducted by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) found that the explosion was caused by an electrostatic spark being generated while the employee was emptying resin pellets from a large bulk bag into the vessel.

The HSE said the company failed to put sufficient measures in place to control the risk. This included a failure to use a correctly working extraction system to remove the flammable vapours and effective electrical earthing of the bulk bag to prevent the build-up of electrostatic charge that led to the static spark discharging.

International Paint pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and was fined £800,000 with £14,032 costs at Newcastle upon Tyne Magistrates’ Court on 30 November 2022.

HSE inspector Paul Wilson said: “This incident should serve as an important reminder to industry that fire and explosion can have devastating consequences. It is critical that employers fully assess the risk of fire and explosion including the risk from static discharges and put the necessary control measures in place.”


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