Two employees were using brake cleaning fluid to clean the grease from pit walls when it became engulfed in flames
A Birmingham garage business has been fined £28,000 after two workers suffered serious burns in an explosion, leaving one needing five skin grafts.
The employees were using brake cleaning fluid to clean the grease from the walls of a vehicle inspection pit in the workshop at STA Vehicle Centres on March 27, 2020, Birmingham Magistrates’ Court heard.
Shortly after the brake cleaner had been applied it became engulfed in flames.
One employee managed to get out of the pit and ran to help his colleague whose clothing had caught fire, pulling him out of the pit and extinguishing the flames.
Both suffered burns to their hands and legs.
One sustained 60 per cent burns and had to undergo an emergency surgical procedure to relieve the pressure from the swelling which involved cutting either side of his shins on both legs and his left knuckle going down to his wrist.
He later underwent five skin graft operations on his left hand and both legs and spent six weeks in hospital.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) into the incident found the company failed to carry out a risk assessment to consider whether it was possible to eliminate or reduce the risk.
It had not considered replacing the dangerous substance with another non-flammable substance or using a different work process.
Jet-washing, a safe alternative, was already in use at the company’s other site.
The employees were not aware of the increased risks associated with using flammable fluid in a poorly ventilated area nor the need for appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) to be worn.
TA Vehicle Centres Limited pleaded guilty to breaching Section 6 (1) of the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002, was fined £28,000 and ordered to pay costs of £926.17.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Charlotte Cunniffe said: “Employers should ensure flammable materials are used appropriately and provide training for employees in their correct use. This incident could have easily been prevented.”