Salvage company fined over staffer's burns

Salvage company fined over staffer's burns 25709

A car mechanic that suffered severe burns in an inspection pit may be able to claim work accident compensation after his employer pleaded guilty to health and safety failures.

Lee Roberts, 33, was caught on CCTV walking into a pit to remove petrol from underneath a van, before running out seconds later as flames engulfed the area.

Leyland Magistrates' Court was told the man's employer, Douglas Valley Breakers, removes coolant, air conditioning liquid, gearbox oil and petrol from old cars so they can be sold on for scrap money.

Magistrates were told it is a common practice for employees to make a hole in the bottom of a fuel tank so petrol can drain into a container, allowing it to be sold on. This was often done with an electric drill.

Investigators concluded the most likely ignition of the fire was from a spark created by this implement, but this was not confirmed as Mr Roberts could not be sure of what caused flames to shoot out of the garage so rapidly.

A major response was needed from the Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service to quell the fire, but it was eventually put out and nobody else was injured.

However, Mr Roberts was not so lucky and he sustained severe burns to his legs, hands and nose in the fire - leaving him unable to work in the subsequent three years.

For its part in sanctioning poor working practices, Douglas Valley Breakers was fined £40,000 and told to pay £25,000 in costs.

Speaking after the trial, assistant chief fire officer David Russel added: "Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service is reminding all business owners and occupiers of their legal responsibility to protect their staff and customers against the risk of fire, and warning that we will take action against anyone found to be in breach of fire safety regulations.

"We are here to advise and give support to local businesses and are always willing to help make sure they comply with fire safety legislation."

By Chris Stevenson