Health & Safety News

News added on 04.06.2020

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Safe system of work

Failure to follow safe system led to serious injuries

An apprentice and his colleague suffered life changing burns when they were re-assembling high pressure pipework after maintenance. What went wrong with the procedure?

The two oil refinery workers were re-assembling high pressure steam pipework following maintenance of a steam turbine driven pump. In doing so, they were exposed to an uncontrolled release of high pressure steam at around 250 degrees. The employee suffered burns to his lower back and legs, and the apprentice suffered extremely serious burns to his torso, chest, arms and legs. Their injures were life-threatening at the time.

The Health and Safety Executive’s investigation found a series of failures in the implementation of the oil refinery’s safe system of work. Several members of staff who were involved in isolating the steam system had failed to complete all the required checks to reduce the risk of an uncontrolled release of steam.

The refinery company should have ensured that all members of staff involved in implementing the system of work were suitably trained and competent to do so.

The refinery company pleaded guilty to breaching its duties to safeguard employees and non-employees under ss.2(1) and 3(1) Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. It was fined £1.2m and ordered to pay £20,450 in costs.

Although the refinery had a safe system of work in place for the activity, several mistakes had been made in following it. As a result, the system was not properly isolated, causing the uncontrolled release of high pressure steam. Suitable training and supervision measures would have helped to ensure that the system of work was properly implemented.

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