A Manchester-based paint manufacturing company has been prosecuted after a worker suffered burns whilst cleaning the floor within the premises. The employee of HMG Paints Ltd was using a highly flammable solvent to clean the floor of a spray booth.
The dried paint was difficult to remove and an industrial floor scrubber was purchased to carry out the task. During use, the electric motor on the floor scrubber ignited a cloud of flammable vapour that had built up in the spray booth. The worker received 26% burns, and was treated at a specialist burns unit. HMG Paints Ltd was fined £80,000 and had to pay costs of over £39,000. Read on to find out more about this accident, and to get some top tips on preventing fire and explosion in relation to the use of flammable substances in the workplace.
£80,000 Fine for Paint Manufacturer after Worker Suffers Burns
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigated the accident and found that when planning the floor cleaning, the company had failed to recognise the hazards associated with the use of highly flammable solvents to clean the spray booth. The injured employee had not received training to clean the floor and had not been properly supervised when carrying out the work activity.
5 Ways to Keep Your Workplace Safe
- Undertake a risk assessment in relation to your use and storage of flammable substances, such as oil, gases, paints and solvents. Always look to reduce the risk, for example by substituting the substance for something less flammable (i.e. a substance with a higher flashpoint) and think about removing any potential ignition sources such as electrical items and naked flames.
- Store any flammable substances in correct containers and lock them away to prevent theft. Ensure that liquids are in bunded areas to contain any unintentional releases. Make sure container lids fit properly and that the containers themselves are not damaged. Check that storage areas have the correct levels of ventilation to prevent vapour build up.
- Where vapour ignition could be a problem, adapt the process to remove the potential ignition source. In the above accident, for example, the correct procedure would likely have been to use a mop and bucket, rather than an electrical scrubber.
- Provide training for workers on how a fire or explosion could happen and under which conditions. The training should cover all activities involving the substance, including transporting it, decanting it and clearing up spillages, as well as use within the work task.
- Look to reduce the quantities of flammables stored on site – only decant what you need for half a day or a day, for example, and only order in what you need in the near future.
It is vitally important that the risk of fire and explosion from flammable substances is mitigated – take the necessary action today to check your controls.