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Chemical Firm Fined After Worker Injured in Mixing Process

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A worker was adding powders to a mixing vessel when flammable vapors ignited, causing significant burns.

Household cleaners and personal care products manufacturer Robert McBride Ltd. was issued a fine of £480,000 (about $627,000) for its role in the injury of a 31-year-old worker at the firm’s Hull, England facility in 2017.

The employee was adding powders to a batch of hairspray in a 10,000 L mixing vessel on August 21, 2017 when flammable vapors ignited, burning about 13% of the man’s right arm and hand, Great Britain’s occupational safety regulator, The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) said in a recent release.

“As the worker was adding powders into the vessel via the lid using a metal scoop, flammable vapors leaving the vessel via the lid ignited, briefly engulfing his upper torso,” the agency wrote. Ethanol was pumped directly into the vessel by pipework connected to an external storage tank.

HSE investigators found an extraction system was installed to remove flammable vapors at the manway lid, but it was not sufficient to prevent the build-up of a flammable atmosphere. Officials said a spark from the metal scoop or static electricity on the worker’s clothing likely sparked the vapor.

“Dutyholders should carry out a DSEAR risk assessment in areas where there is a potential for the creation of explosive or flammable atmospheres in order to identify adequate control measures,” HSE Inspector David Stewart said in a statement.

Robert McBride of Hornscroft Park, Kinswood, Hull pleaded guilty to violating Regulation 6(1) of the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations (DSEAR) 2002. In addition to the fine, the company was also ordered to pay £13,441.80 in costs.

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