Company prosecuted after workers suffer severe burns

In July 2014 two employees of PSL Worldwide Projects Ltd received serious burns while working at a Hyclone UK Ltd site, in Cramlington. The workers were using Sodium Hydroxide granules to clean a pipe system when a reaction occurred between the chemicals and water in the system that caused the liquid to heat up and build up pressure in the hose. The hose detached and sprayed the two workers with the solution, causing severe burns.

One operative received life threatening burns to his back, buttocks, arms, leg, neck and one side of his face. The other operative received burns to the right side of his head, his neck, and back, left arm and behind his right ear.

The HSE investigation identified that the task was not adequately risk assessed by PSL Worldwide Projects Ltd, the equipment provided to do the job, in particular the hosing, was not suitable for the solution, and the company failed to provide adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) to its employees.

PSL Worldwide Projects Ltd were found guilty and the case was referred to Newcastle Crown Court for sentencing. They were fined £150,000. No costs were awarded due to the company being in liquidation.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Laura Catterall commented, “If a suitable risk assessment had been undertaken it would have identified that the equipment being used was not right for the chemicals or the work being carried out. All companies who work with high hazard chemicals should learn from this case and ensure that their workers are properly protected.”

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