Tata Steel UK has been fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £2,384 in costs after a worker suffered serious burns from a rush of hot gas at the company’s plant in Scunthorpe.
The fine relates to an incident in 2012 when Gary Jeans was working with a colleague at the coke ovens in Dawes Lane, Scunthorpe. He had climbed up to a walkway above the oven top and was trying to unstick a valve needed for charging the oven by applying pressure with his foot onto the valve counterbalance.
However, his colleague, who was out of sight below, started to charge the oven sending a rush of hot gas out of the top of the gas pipe toward him.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigated and prosecuted Tata Steel UK at Scunthorpe Magistrates’ Court for a breach of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
The court was told there had been a recognised issue of valves sticking and other operating problems of the coke ovens due to their age. A number of unapproved working practices had developed over time to get round operating problems, such as the task Jeans was attempting.
HSE found that Tata Steel had let the unapproved working practices go unchecked and had failed to recognise that they needed either stamping out as poor practice or regularising if approved.
Jeans suffered serious burns to his face, left arm and back and was unable to work several months.
HSE inspector Steven Kay said: “This case underlines the need for managers to familiarise themselves with working practices, and to make it part of their job to understand difficulties their employees are facing carrying out their work.
“Tata Steel is a large company with high risks and ageing plant; it needs to work very hard to keep on top of safety on its site. It needs to work harder to continue to make improvements.”