A company has been ordered to pay a fine of £17,000 after one of its employees was involved in a nasty incident while cleaning a tank containing caustic soda.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has revealed details of its prosecution of Inflite Engineering, an Essex-based aerospace firm. An unnamed 39-year-old worker had been cleaning a tank at its base in Chelmsford in November last year when sodium hydroxide crystals were flicked into his face and he sustained injuries to an eyelid and tear duct.
He underwent treatment at a local hospital and only avoided a more serious injury thanks to the quick response of his colleagues.
While cleaning the tank, the employee took off his protective mask as it had begun to mist. As he did so, a number of caustic soda crystals hit his eyelid. In fact, the man was actually lucky that the substance did not hit his eye, as this could have led to permanent damage to his sight.
HSE inspector Vicky Fletcher commented on the case and suggested it had been "completely preventable". She noted that it is realistic that the worker could have been killed had he fallen from the tank he was working on into a nearby uncovered pool of sodium cyanide solution.
"Inflite Engineering Ltd failed to adequately assess the risks when they asked their employees to clean out the tank, and failed to provide adequate control measures to ensure the job could be done safely. It is essential that thorough assessments of the risks are carried out to determine if there is sufficient in-house expertise," Ms Fletcher explained.
Such a case could serve as a useful reminder for firms that work in a similar sector to ensure their own safety methods and precautions are of the highest quality. Investing in recommended safety equipment and plenty of training and education for staff could be among the best ideas for companies looking to protect people and stay out of the HSE's reach.