Bad burns for one Essex man at Chelmsford engineering plant

Industry news roundup: week ended 12 Nov 2012:

This week, a rather gruesome injury made the news when a man from Essex suffered quite bad burns whilst on the job at a Chelmsford engineering plant.

The unnamed man, a thirty nine year old worker for Infinite Engineering Ltd, came into close contact with caustic soda – a substance also known as solidified sodium hydroxide – as he was tasked with cleaning out a tank of the substance. The man had been standing in the tank in order to chip away at the crystallised material within the tank when he suffered chemical burns to his face after having to lift his safety mask from his face after it misted up, obscuring his vision.

Crystals of the caustic soda alighted on the man’s face, burning both the inside of his tear duct and his eyelid. Fortunately for him, he managed to avoid getting the crystals in his eyes, as that could have led to permanent damage for his vision otherwise his vision.

The incident was investigated by the Health and Safety Executive shortly after it occurred, with HSE inspectors concluding that the man’s employer should have done more to protect the worker from sustaining damage from caustic soda crystals. The HSE prosecuted the London-based Inflite Engineering Ltd, which operates from Stansted airport, resulting in a massive fine of £17,000 and court costs of £3,246 after Inflite admitted breaching health and safety regulations.

In an interview given in the wake of the court hearing, one inspector for the HSE remarked that Inflite had neglected to adequately carry out risk assessments of what it involved to clean the tank of caustic soda in a safe manner. Not only was the injured man placed in jeopardy of receiving chemical burns, pointed out the HSE inspector, but the danger of falling from the task was not accounted for as well, though luckily the employee’s injuries were relatively minor in comparison to the debilitating injuries he could have sustained.

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