Company fined £800,000 for near-fatal 2020 explosion

Article by Amanda Jasi

COATINGS company International Paint has been fined £800,000 (US$976,512) for a near-fatal 2020 explosion that caused a worker “life-changing injuries”.

The explosion occurred on 4 August 2020 at International Paint’s site in Gateshead, UK, while an employee was making paint in a large mixing vessel. This involved the use of flammable liquids. As he transferred resin pellets from a large bulk bag to the vessel, an electrostatic spark was generated, which ignited flammable vapour in the vessel and caused an explosion.

As a result, the employee spent eight days in intensive care on life support and was left with all-over body scarring, partial blindness in one eye, hearing damage, and damage to his knee and shoulder. He was out of work for 16 months. International Paint has said he has returned, reports BBC News.

Following its investigation, the UK’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said the company failed to establish sufficient measures to control risk. This includes not using a correctly-working extraction system to remove flammable vapours and a lack of effective electrical earthing of the bulk bag to prevent the buildup of electrostatic charge.

International Paint pled guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, which makes employers responsible for protecting the health, welfare, and safety of its employees. BBC News says the company plans to pay the fine along with £14,032 in court fees, within three months.

HSE inspector Paul Wilson said: “This incident should serve as an important reminder to industry that fire and explosion can have devastating consequences. It is critical that employers fully assess the risk of fire and explosion including the risk from static discharges and put the necessary control measures in place.”

International Paint produces high performance coatings. It is owned by chemical firm AkzoNobel.

Article by Amanda Jasi

Staff Reporter, The Chemical Engineer

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