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Sheffield steel forger fined £1m for severe burns incident

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A Sheffield steel fabricator has been fined £1m after a worker suffered life changing burns injuries when an oxygen pipe exploded in front of him.


Sheffield Crown Court heard the 57-year-old employee of Sheffield Forgemasters Engineering Limited endured severe third degree burns in the aftermath of the explosion on 9 August 2013.

The court was told how the worker was carrying out checks when he heard hissing from an oxygen valve. When he went to investigate the noise, the pipe and valve erupted in flames.

He was initially not expected to survive, having been kept in a coma for several weeks and had to undergo several skin grafts for severe third degree burns.

HSE’s investigation found an in-house contractor had carried out work to fit a valve to an oxygen pipe that carried pure oxygen. They found the oxygen pipe had been fitted with contaminated second-hand flanges and butterfly valve, containing materials unsuitable for use with oxygen.

HSE told the court it was foreseeable that work would at some point be undertaken on the oxygen pipelines that ran across the entire site, yet no action had been taken to take control of this line. No action had been taken to train employees or set levels of responsibility for management of such work.

Sheffield Forgemasters Engineering Limited of Brightside Lane, Sheffield pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and was fined £1,000,000 with £58,000.45 costs.

Speaking after the hearing investigating HSE inspector Carol Downes said: “This incident could have been avoided if simple checks had been carried out.

“Duty holders should be aware that HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those that fall below the require standard.”

Sheffield Forgemasters Engineering makes steel for its own castings and forgings to manufacture parts for the nuclear, engineering, petrochemical, and oil industries. It posts annual revenues of in excess of £70m.

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