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Foundry fined for worker's burns

20 September 2011

A foundry in Stoke-on-Trent has been fined after an employee was left with serious injuries incurred by being burned by molten metal.

Image courtesy of Copper Alloys Ltd.
Image courtesy of Copper Alloys Ltd.

Copper Alloys Ltd. was prosecuted after the 28-year-old man suffered severe burns to his left arm and upper legs when he fell into an unfenced pit that housed a mould containing molten metal with a temperature of over 900°C.

The employee, who does not want to be named, needed skin grafts on his injured limbs.

During the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecution, Fenton Magistrates' Court heard the worker is still undergoing physiotherapy for restricted movement in his arm, hand and fingers, and is so traumatised by the experience that he has not been able to return to any work at the foundry.

The man had been using a long-handled tool to scrape impurities from the top of a freshly poured casting when he tripped and fell into an unfenced gap between the metal mould and the pit in which the mould was sited.

He used the tool to prevent himself from falling into the five foot deep pit, but landed on the edge of the mould and his arm was briefly immersed in the molten metal. His upper legs were burned on the impurities just scraped from the mould.

HSE's investigation found there was no guard railing around the edge of the mould pit and the company had failed to recognise the risk of workers falling into the pit.

Copper Alloys Ltd. of Stoke-on-Trent admitted breaching Regulation 13(5) of the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992. The company was fined £8,000 and ordered to pay £4,798 costs.

Regulation 13(5) of the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 states: "So far as is practicable, every tank, pit or structure where there is a risk of a person in the workplace falling into a dangerous substance in the tank, pit, or structure, shall be securely covered or fenced."

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Grayam Barnes said: "This incident has had a permanent, life-changing effect on an employee. He has been unable to return to work and still needs physiotherapy. This case highlights the consequences of failing to recognise dangers arising from an unfenced pit. Copper Alloys should have identified and mitigated the risk. Falling into the pit was foreseeable and likely to cause serious, or even fatal, injuries with the presence of molten metal in this work area. Companies, particularly those working with dangerous substances, must ensure they fit suitable guard railing or covers to protect their workers."

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