Gateshead chemical firm fined £800,000 over near-fatal blast

A chemical firm has been fined £800,000 after an explosion left a worker fighting for his life.

The 49-year-old man was scarred, partially blinded and also suffered hearing damage in the blast at Gateshead’s International Paint plant.

He had been making paint in a large mixing vessel, which involved the use of flammable liquids.

The firm admitted breaching health and safety laws and was fined at Newcastle Magistrates’ Court.

The explosion happened as the employee was emptying resin pellets from a large bulk bag into the vessel which generated an electrostatic spark and ignited flammable vapour.

The man, from South Shields, spent eight days on life support.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the company failed to put sufficient measures in place to control the risk, including a correctly working extraction system.

‘Devastating consequences’

The report also showed the plant, in Felling, did not have effective electrical earthing of the bulk bag to prevent the build-up of electrostatic charge.

HSE inspector Paul Wilson said it was a reminder of the “devastating consequences” explosions can have in a workplace, adding it was “critical” firms fully assess risks and put control measures in place.

In a statement, the company said it deeply regretted the incident and had addressed the issue which caused the blast in August 2020.

“Since the incident, we have been supporting our colleague through our onsite occupational health provision and despite the injuries he has suffered, we are pleased to say that he has now returned to work.

“The health and safety of everyone at work is our absolute priority.

“Although we had extensive safety systems in place to address the risks arising from our manufacturing process, they were inadequate to prevent this incident, and for that we are extremely sorry.”

The company added it would pay the fine within three months along with court costs of £14,000.


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