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Firm fined after worker burned in gas pipe fire

A demolition firm has been fined for safety failings after an employee suffered serious burns when a gas pipe ignited in his face.

The employee, 37, from Wakefield, West Yorkshire, was carrying out demolition work at a warehouse in Burton-on-Trent when he cut into a metal gas pipe that ignited in his face. He received serious burns to his face and forearms.

He was taken to the local Queens Hospital and later transferred to the burns unit at Birmingham Queen Elizabeth Hospital where he was treated over two days.

The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted his employers, Birstall Demolition and Plant Services Ltd of Birstall, West Yorkshire, after an investigation revealed that the incident could have been prevented if his employers had undertaken basic checks to ensure the pipe was safe.

HSE told Burton-on-Trent Magistrates’ Court on Friday 25 May, how the worker could have died in the incident at Centrum 100 Business Park, Burton on Trent on 16 June 2010.

The court heard he was using an angle grinder to remove hardware from a mezzanine area when he cut into a metal gas pipe, unaware it was still live. It then ignited sending flames into his face and forearms.

After the hearing HSE Inspector Alastair Choudhury said: “Injuries to workers in the demolition industry are all too common.

“Demolition activities need to be planned, supervised and monitored rigorously. However, Birstall Demolition and Plant Services Ltd failed to perform the simplest of checks to protect their employee by not making sure that the pipes were safe.

“This employee suffered serious burns, which would have been worse if he had not been wearing goggles and safety gloves. For a lengthy amount of time after the incident, he was not able to return to work.

“However he is now working again, for a different employer, still bearing the scars from his ordeal.

“This incident could easily have resulted in even more serious injuries; in fact he could have died.”

Birstall Demolition and Plant Services Ltd of Gelderd Road, Birstall, West Yorkshire, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2 (1) of the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The company was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay costs of £4,256.