A firm has been fined £5,000 after a welder was badly burned when ignited acetone spilled onto his leg.
Oxford Magistrates’ Court heard that the 38-year-old welder from Oxford spent a week in hospital and required skin grafts following the incident in January 2012.
Chemical burn at work
Didcot-based Thames Cryogenics Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act. As well as the fine the firm – a specialist manufacturer of pipework and vessels designed to carry liquid oxygen and nitrogen – was ordered to pay costs of £4,500.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), prosecuting, said an open bowl of highly flammable acetone had ignited as the man, who does not want to be named, used it to quench a hot piece of work.
It spilled onto and through his trousers as he tried to take the container outside.
Magistrates heard that an HSE investigation established that the bowl had been in place since 1986 while the firm did not consider using large quantities of acetone in an open container to be an issue.
‘Difficult to comprehend’
Following the court case HSE inspector John Caboche pointed out that the standards governing the use of highly flammable liquids were well established and well known in industry.
He added: “So it is difficult to comprehend how Thames Cryogenics could mistakenly believe that leaving an open bowl of acetone seemingly unchecked for a prolonged period – in this case several decades – was acceptable.”
Magistrates were told that HSE inspectors had identified several issues with the firm’s safety management system before serving three Improvement Notices.
Following the incident, smaller sealed containers had been introduced for the storage of acetone for welders to use, the court heard.