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Burns victim claims for fuel tank incident

08th November 2013

The man had been working on an industrial estate in 2011 at the time of the incident.

He was cleaning a boswer – which is a 20,000 litre fuel tank – from the inside using highly flammable solvent on a cloth, when he felt that the lamp he was using was becoming too hot.

Unfortunately, when he pulled the plug from its socket, a spark was created and ignited the fumes in the tank. Witnesses stated that they saw flames two meters high erupt from the manhole cover on the top of the container.

The extreme heat of the flames caused the employee’s protective visor and suit to melt, leaving only the elastic, collar, and cuffs from the clothing.

The accident at work resulted in the man suffering multiple burns over the majority of his body. He sustained serious personal injuries to his arms, legs, face, and lips, as well as having his hair and eyebrows burnt off.

After a three month stay in hospital, he is now sadly dependant on a wheelchair having been almost completely paralysed by the incident due to the severity of his burns.

He states, “I am not able to lift my arms, move my legs and feet or hold anything in my fingers and hands.

“Every morning after breakfast, I am moved into my wheelchair and stay there until it’s time for bed.

“Generally, I am very bored and frustrated. I am not able to do anything I used to do before the accident such as drive a car, go to karate sessions or play my trumpet which I played since the age of 12.

“I can’t play football with my son or give my children a cuddle, and my life will never be the same again.”

The day following the accident, the company decided that the use of flammable solvent was unnecessary and could be swapped for soapy water.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive revealed that the firm had been using the solvent since 2007, without having carried out a risk assessment and despite workers complaining that it made them feel sick.

Furthermore, staff were not supervised, and the monitoring of fumes within the container, as well as the personal protective equipment and lighting used, was inappropriate for the task.

After contacting an injury solicitor, the man received £91,000 in work accident compensation. The fuel tank manufacturer was also fined £66,000 and ordered to pay court costs of £25,000.

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