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Killed worker was not wearing PPE

04 March 2009

A metal manufacturer must pay £70,000 in fines and court costs over the death of a Polish worker who was badly burned in a furnace explosion two years ago.

Killed worker was not wearing PPE
Killed worker was not wearing PPE

Patrycjusz Handzel, 24, was working a night-shift as a melter at Transition International's factory in Sheffield in March 2007 when the blast occurred.

Handzel was loading scrap metal into an electric induction furnace, melting ferro-titanium, when there was an explosion and he was engulfed in flames.

Handzel suffered burns on 80% of his body when his synthetic fibre top burned for 12 minutes at boiling point on his skin. He died in hospital three days later from multiple organ failure. The explosion could have been caused by water mixing with the hot metal, which Handzel had been loading into the furnace.

Handzel's colleague Anthony Brough, who was with him at the time of the blast, told an inquest in 2008 that he rushed into the foundry after hearing a "huge explosion" and found Mr Handzel in a "ball of flames" near the furnace.

Handzel, an agency worker who'd been at Transition for only a few weeks, had been wearing a synthetic hooded top and jeans, rather than protective clothing suitable for work near molten metal.

HSE inspector Geoff Clarke said that PPE had been provided "but the company had evidently taken no trouble to ensure that it was being worn".

Workers were not properly trained on the dangers of working with molten metal and procedures to ensure water dangerous contamination did not enter the furnace were found to be inadequate.

Protective clothing would have "significantly improved" Handzel's chance of survival but he had not had any induction training on how to use PPE. The inquest also noted a lack of warning signs, a lack of disciplinary procedures for rule breaking, a lack of clear written procedures, and "conflicting oral procedures" on preventing water and other contaminants entering the furnace.

Transition International admitted failing to ensure Handzel's health and safety contrary to Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act. At Sheffield Crown Court on 24 February, the manufacturer was fined £20,000 and ordered to pay £50,000 costs.

Employers have a duty to provide a safe workplace for employees in order to prevent accidents. When migrant workers are employed it is imperative that training is undertaken and that all training is understood. This incident highlights the importance of maintaining safe working practices and providing rigorous training and supervision.

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