Two men sustained serious burns after attempting to use an old air shelter as a makeshift furnace to burn garden waste, a court has heard.
The pair, who do not want to be named, were working for Surrey-based 1st Surface Ltd to extend and resurface a tennis court at a private address in Bromley when the incident occurred on 25 January last year.
Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard yesterday (21 November) that as part of the initial preparation work they needed to clear an area of overgrown garden where the new court would go.
They accumulated sufficient waste to fill approximately five skips. However, no such method of disposal was available to them and they had not been given any clear instruction on how to safely dispose of the waste.
They decided to use an air raid shelter in the garden as a furnace to burn some of it away. The shelter, part-buried and also overgrown, was in the area of ground to be cleared and was to be demolished anyway.
One of the workers entered the shelter via a chimney at the top, placed some kindling inside to get the fire started and poured on petrol to act as an accelerant. He then left the shelter and his colleague threw a lit taper into the shelter to get the fire going.
The petrol vapour that had accumulated within the shelter exploded. Both men, who were standing on top of the shelter, received burns to their faces and were forcibly thrown off their feet.
They were hospitalised for several days. One successfully returned to work after a few weeks, however the second is still unable to return to active employment.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigated the explosion and found 1st Surface Ltd had failed to properly assess and plan the waste disposal aspect of the work.
Had the company provided skips prior to the clearance starting, the two workers would have had no need to burn the waste. The system they chose was extremely high risk and they were unaware of the significant risk posed by petrol vapour, especially when allowed to expand in a confined space.
1st Surface Ltd, of Dashwood Close, West Byfleet, Surrey, was fined £9,000 and ordered to pay £2,571 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
via Company fined after air raid shelter explosion injures workers.
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