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Accidents at work

Hazardous substance safety failings led to severe burns for worker

A car manufacturing company could face a substantial personal injury claim after a worker suffered severe burns and was in pain for 12 months.

The man, from Leamington Spa, required skin grafts to his stomach as a result of the incident at Grupo Antolin Leamington Limited, at Tachbrook.

The company was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after an investigation identified safety failings.

Nuneaton Magistrates’ Court was told the operative was on a spray line as part of a process for manufacturing car headliners.

The operative’s job required him to remove the components from the conveyor as they left the spray machine.

However, the size and shape of the headliners meant that he and others had to lean over the conveyor to lift them off the line and then support them on their abdomen to transport them to the next part of the process. It was during this process the victim’s stomach came into contact with some caustic soda.

During his shift he experienced some irritation to his stomach, but assumed it was a muscle strain as a result of the unfamiliar work. It was only later when he got home that he noticed his skin was black.

He went to hospital where his skin was irrigated with water to neutralise the alkali. However, the damage sustained was substantial and he subsequently required skin grafts.

The HSE investigation found that the company had not put controls in place to prevent staff from coming into contact with the caustic soda.

The worker had been given personal protective equipment but it was not suitable as it was only a disposable plastic apron rather than one designed to be used with chemicals.

Grupo Antolin Leamington Limited, of Tachbrook Park Drive, Leamington Spa, pleaded guilty to breaching a Regulation relating to the control of hazardous substances. The company was fined £12,000 and ordered to pay costs of £9,900.

HSE inspector Mark Austin said: “Caustic soda is a highly corrosive substance.

“Grupo Antolin Leamington Limited has since installed barriers on the machine to prevent staff leaning over and coming into contact with the chemical and now also provides operators on that spray line with chemical resistant aprons.

“It is unfortunate a man had to suffer severe burns which left him in considerable pain some 12 months after the incident, for this to happen.”

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