Last reviewed 24 November 2021

A Hereford-based company that undertakes hot dip galvanizing for the corrosion protection of steelwork has been fined after an employee was fatally injured in an explosion.

Kidderminster Magistrates’ Court heard that, on 2 February 2019, an employee of Hereford Galvanizers Ltd was operating an overhead crane adjacent to a molten zinc bath, when a tubular steel brace exploded during galvanizing, causing it to “rocket” across the workshop floor, fatally striking the employee who was standing in its path.

The steel brace failed due to the absence of vent holes to prevent the build-up of pressure inside the hollow brace during the galvanizing process.

A quantity of liquid entered the brace during earlier stages of the galvanizing process; when immersed into the 450°C zinc bath, the trapped liquid turned rapidly into steam generating very high internal pressures sufficient to cause failure of the brace.

This resulted in the violent explosion which propelled the steel brace across the workshop floor.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the company had failed to adequately assess the risk and devise and implement suitable safe systems and methods of work for venting checks.

In addition, employees were not adequately trained or supervised when completing venting checks.

Hereford Galvanizers Limited, which operates under the trading umbrella name Hereford and Shropshire Galvanizers, pleaded guilty to breaching s.2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. It was fined £266,000 and ordered to pay costs of £14,635.29 plus a victim surcharge £170.

Speaking after the hearing HSE inspector Sian Donne said: “This tragic incident led to the avoidable death of a young man. His death could easily have been prevented if his employer had acted to identify and manage the risks involved, put a safe system of work in place and ensured that employees were appropriately trained and supervised”.