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Cement company prosecuted after worker set alight

Lafarge Cement has been prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive after a worker was set alight in an explosion.

Electrical engineer, Paul Ridings was engulfed by the fireball at the firm’s site at Thurrock Marine Terminal, Grays, Essex.

Basildon Crown Court heard that Ridings was investigating a fault with an energy meter when he inadvertently disturbed a loose connection and exposed a strand of wire leading to an electrical explosion.

His clothes caught fire and he suffered burns to his face, neck, chest, arms and hands, having to spend 19 days in a Specialist Burns Unit , followed by numerous skin grafts and operations to remove scar tissue.

An HSE investigation found that Lafarge Cement UK failed to ensure electrical systems were maintained in such a way as to protect workers.

The company admitted breaching sections 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. It was fined £130,000 and ordered to pay costs of £29,742.

HSE inspector, David King, said:

“Every year approximately 20 people die from electrical shocks or burns following incidents at work. Mr Ridings could easily have been killed in this incident.

“It’s clear that in this case the overall arrangements for maintaining electrical assets were inadequate and the health and safety of both staff and contractors were put at risk.

“HSE will proactively prosecute any company exposing workers to these unnecessary risks.”

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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