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Tyneside firm fined after worker suffers toxic chemical burns

08-10-2012

A Tyneside firm has been fined after a worker was soaked with a concentrated, corrosive chemical and suffered serious burns.

Michael Reid, 66, of North Shields, was employed as an electroplater at DMI (UK) Ltd. when the incident happened on 30 January 2011.

In a prosecution brought by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), North Tyneside Magistrates' Court heard how as part of an electroplating process, the company used a stripping tank filled with a sodium hydroxide solution, which from time to time had to be topped up with a concentrate of the chemical.

Mr Reid was topping up the tank, by pumping the highly-caustic concentrated sodium hydroxide from a drum into the tank, when the hose attached to the pump came off, soaking him in the corrosive chemical.

He suffered serious burns to his legs and body, was in hospital for two weeks and had to undergo several skin grafts. Mr Reid had worked for the company since 1963 and retired in July 2011, having never returned to work following the incident.

The HSE investigation found that the hose had been attached to the pump with tape, rather than a permanent fixing such as a jubilee clip.

The company had failed to carry out a risk assessment of the procedure and did not carry out checks to ensure the hose was correctly attached. It had also failed to provide sufficient training for Mr Reid and other employees in the handling of sodium hydroxide and the protective equipment provided did not offer sufficient protection.

DMI (UK) Ltd., of Gloucester Road, West Chirton Industrial Estate, North Shields, was fined a total of £12,000 and ordered to pay £4,081 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 in that it failed to provide a safe system of work for topping up the stripping tank.

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