Company fined after worker burnt by petrol explosion

A gardening company has been under the spotlight recently after one of its employees was severely burned after trying to burn waste vegetation on scrubland. The HSE started an investigation into the garden company’s practices when it found out that one of its 31 year old employees was advised to get rid of hogweed by setting fire to it. He was given petrol and a cigarette lighter to set it on fire.

The Polish worker was with the company’s operation manager at the time and had returned to a scrubland site they had been clearing a few days previously. Giant hogweed is notoriously difficult to remove but the manager’s decision to burn it using petrol proved to be a disastrous one.

As the employee lit the petrol, which had been put on the weed, there was an explosion which knocked him to the ground and resulted in him receiving burns to his face, throat, body, arms and hands.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigated the accident and concluded that there was no need to set fire to the waste as it could have been safely taken to a licensed waste site. The gardening company had failed in their duty to carry out a risk assessment and actually asked the employee to do a very dangerous job.

The company was fined £23,000 and ordered to pay £9,682 in prosecution costs after pleading guilty to a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

An HSE Inspector said:

“A worker has suffered burns that may affect him for the rest of his life because his employer failed to ensure his safety.

“He should never have been told to pour petrol over the weeds and then to light.

“There was absolutely no need for the vegetation to be disposed of in this way, putting the lives of workers in danger. It could easily have been taken to a nearby waste site without the risk of employees being injured.”

Accidents do happen and often a company will look after you following an accident, but this doesn’t mean they are not at fault. If you received an injury when working with dangerous sustances like petrol then your company may be responsible for not having the risk assessed the job or providing you with the necessary training to do your job safely with the right safety equipment. 

If you are interested in finding out about whether you can claim compensation for an accident or injury sustained at work call now on 0800 089 4444 for a free no-obligation conversation with our specialist team or complete an enquiry online.