Court Fines Company Over Factory Fire

A court has fined Maxibrite Ltd for health and safety violations regarding a factory fire in which two of its employees suffered burn injuries-one so severe, he needed a skin graft.

In December 2012, a fire broke out in a tower on a manufacturing plant in Llantrisant owned by Maxibrite-a coal briquette manufacturer. Several attempts were made to control the fire in the tower-which held a rotary drier-all of which failed. After these failed attempts, a Maxibrite work manager-Simon Gillbody-and another employee-Carl Lewis-went to the tower to attempt to open an inspection hatch at the bottom to release any obstruction.

Carl opened the inspection hatch, causing burning cinders and hot coals to fall down on him. These caused burns to the necks, faces and chests of the two employees. The emergency services were notified, and they were transported to hospital. Carl required a skin graft operation due to the severity of his burns. Simon was treated to by the emergency services, as his burns were not as serious as Carl’s.

The Health and Safety Executive launched an investigation into the accident which caused the two men to be injured. It was discovered that Maxibrite had neither carried out a risk assessment for the possibility  of the rotary dried starting a fire, nor instructed the employees on the procedures to follow in the event of a fire. It was further revealed that no training had been provided for employees who may be using fire-fighting equipment if a fire were to break out.

The HSE prosecuted the company for breaches in the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations. At Pontypridd Magistrate’s Court, the company pleaded guilty to both of the charges against them. The Magistrates fined the company a total of £20,000 for their negligence which caused the injuries, and ordered the company to pay £5,115 in costs.

Speaking after the Magistrates had announced the fine, HSE inspector Steve Lewis commented that Simon and Carl–the two employees burned in the accident–could have suffered far worse injuries because of Maxibrite´s negligence. He urged all employers to inform staff of the proper procedures to follow should a fire break out at work.