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£90k Fine after ‘Astonishing Decision’

A packaging firm has been fined £90,000 after two workers were seriously injured in a fireball at a factory in Cumbria.

Innovia Films was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) at Carlisle Crown Court following the fire at its Wigton plant in September 2006. It pleaded guilty to contravening health and safety regulations.

The company said it was sorry for the injuries suffered and it had worked hard to improve its safety systems.

One of the men, electrician Gordon Metcalf, 62, from Maryport, suffered burns to 47% of his body and was in a coma for four weeks and intensive care for six weeks.

He has been unable to return to work and is still receiving treatment. He and another worker, who asked not to be named, were about to clean debris from a damaged fuse box when the fireball engulfed them.

The HSE said its investigation found there had been a fire in the fuse box but live cables had been routed through it so cooling equipment at the factory could continue to operate.

Mr Metcalf said he still had nightmares about what happened.

In a statement read out by his wife Mary, he said: “It has been a long five years. An accident that need not have happened had Innovia had the electricity supply switched off.

“Innovia will now pay their fine, move on and the incident will be forgotten.

“I can never forget. I am reminded every day by the scars on my body, the things and tasks I can no longer do and the trauma I still experience.” He said he hoped lessons had been learned.

Health and Safety Executive principal inspector for Cumbria Mark Dawson said: “It was an astonishing decision to allow work to go ahead without the live electricity supply being switched off and even went against the company’s own work procedures.

“If the factory had been shut down for just a day-and-a-half then neither of the workers would have suffered severe burns.”

The HSE was criticised for the length of time it had taken to bring the case to court and it said it would be taking note.

In a statement, Innovia Films said: “We are of course extremely sorry for the suffering caused to our two injured colleagues and are pleased to say that we were able to deal with this matter in a way that saved them from having to give evidence and relive the events of nearly five years ago.

“Innovia Films remains absolutely committed to Health and Safety.

“We have worked hard to further improve our safety system to ensure that such an accident does not occur again in the future and that work will continue.”

The company was ordered to pay £26,790 prosecution costs.

BBC News
July 2011

July 25, 2011 | Categories: News |
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