Douglas Valley Breakers Ltd, of Standish, near Wigan, have pleaded guilty to two breaches of the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002, one breach of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 and two breaches of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. The company was fined a total of £40,000 and ordered to pay £25,000 in costs.
This follows an incident in which a car mechanic suffered severe burns when the inspection pit he was standing in burst into flames. CCTV of the incident shows the employee walking into a pit to remove fuel from underneath a van in July 2010. Seconds later, he is seen running out as fire engulfs the pit.
A joint investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service discovered multiple health and safety failings.
The company regularly removes engine and gearbox oil, coolant, air conditioning liquid and fuel from old vehicles so that they can be used for scrap. It was common practice for employees to puncture the fuel tank on vehicles to allow fuel to drain into an open container on the floor of the pit. An electric drill was also sometimes used to make a hole in the tank.
The investigation concluded that the most likely cause of the fire was that the drained fuel was set alight by a spark from the electric drill or an extension lead in the pit. A major response was required from Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service to bring the fire under control.
The employee sustained severe burns to his hands, legs and nose in the fire, and he has not been able to return to work since the incident.
Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service also found the company did not have suitable fire detectors or alarms, failed to provide adequate fire safety training to staff, and failed to have appropriate procedures in place for dealing with fires.