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Accidents at work

Workers’ acid burn injuries caused by safety failings

Three workers suffered personal injury after safety failings resulted in them being sprayed by sulphuric acid.

The three men were hit by a spray of the corrosive chemical without warning when 50 year-old pipes that had been allowed to corrode finally gave way.

They were all employed by an on-site contractor at the Polimeri Europa UK Ltd chemical plant in Hythe, Southampton.

The company was ordered to pay nearly £150,000 in fines and costs after a Health and Safety Executive investigation identified serious safety failings.

Southampton Crown Court was told the three men had all sustained acid burns to their faces but prompt showering on site and first aid treatment by a fellow worker helped prevent more serious injury.

All three were subsequently able to return to work

The incident involved pipework, used to carry 96 per cent sulphuric acid, which had split close to where the three men were working on an unrelated task in the roadway in between areas of plant.

HSE’s investigation identified that Polimeri did have a plan to inspect their pipework systems in 2008, but initial target dates had been missed.

HSE found the company had failed to make sure its pipework was in a safe condition and corrosion had been allowed to take hold of the section that carried the acid.

Polimeri Europa UK Ltd, of Cadland Road, Hythe, Southampton, was fined a total of £120,000 and ordered to pay £18,023 in full costs after admitting a breach of both Section 2(1) and Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

HSE Inspector Sally Morgan said: “These workers received acid burns in an incident that could have been prevented. Polimeri Europa UK Ltd should have ensured that their pipework, much of it over 50 years old, was subject to a thorough and timely inspection regime.

“Polimeri is part of an international chemical company and would be well aware of the legal requirement to ensure on-going integrity of the sulphuric acid pipework, but they failed to do this for many years.

“The result was a system that gradually and invisibly became more and more dangerous.”

If you have suffered personal injury at work, call PM Law Solicitors in Sheffield on 0114 2965444.

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