Last reviewed 2 December 2020

Marcin Wojtas, managing director of MWJ Construction Ltd has received a suspended sentence after an employee suffered severe burns during the decommissioning of a petrol tank, which resulted in an explosion.

Flammable liquids and vapours such as petrol, diesel, fuel oil, paints, solvents, glue, lacquer and cleaning agents are found in many places of work. If a welding torch or powered cutter is used on a tank or drum containing flammable material (solid, liquid or vapour), the tank or drum can explode violently.

However, before the incident that occurred on 9 July 2018, two operatives were instructed by Wojtas to use an angle grinder to remove a tank lid to speed up the decommissioning of a petrol tank. While performing the task, the petrol vapours within the tank ignited and an explosion occurred. The injured person sustained burns to 26% of their body.

Investigating Health and Safety Executive officers found Wojtas had been informed by an officer from the Petroleum Enforcing Authority that the work to decommission the fuel tank was a specialised operation and needed to be completed by a competent contractor. Neither operative had any of the training, experience or knowledge required to make them competent.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector David Tonge said: “The accident could have been prevented if the work was appropriately planned through an adequate risk assessment. Had this been the case, competent operatives would have conducted the work, the tank would have had its hazardous contents (petrol vapour and petrol) removed safely and equipment appropriate to use around an explosive atmosphere would have been used.”