Workers narrowly escaped serious injury when an industrial oven exploded at a gasket factory in West Yorkshire, a court has heard.
Employees working the night shift at Flexitallic Ltd’s premises in Cleckheaton on 4 March 2013 left the oven area just minutes before the devastating explosion happened.
The blast blew the sinter oven to pieces and caused extensive fire damage to the roof.
Huddersfield Magistrates’ Court was told how the oven was used to bake gasket sheets as part of the production process. This involved mixing components with a flammable paraffin, forming them into sheets and then thoroughly drying off the solvent before putting them into the oven.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive revealed night shift workers had followed instructions left by the day shift manager to transfer a pack of the sheets that had been left in the dryer into the sinter oven.
Two operatives loaded the sheets into the oven and started the cycle, unaware that the sheets were only partially dry as a critical instrumentation on the drier had failed and was not repaired by the company.
The flammable vapours ignited as they made contact with the electrical heating elements, causing the explosion.
It left the room severely damaged and punched a massive hole through the roof above, part of which collapsed. Around a dozen workers were taken to hospital but later released after being checked over.
Flexitallic Ltd of Scandinavia Mill, Hunsworth Lane, Cleckheaton, West Yorkshire, pleaded guilty to a breach of Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. It was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay costs of £1,588.
Source: Health and Safety Executive