This news article featured in issue no.13 in CHSP’s April 2022 newsletter
On 21st September 2020 two contract workers working in a confined space working for Evergreen Packaging Mill were fatally injured following some other work activity taking part in a separate part of the vessel.
Two blast core workers were working within a vessel to refinish the inside of the surface wall by grinding off the original surface and then using a flammable resin mixed with fibre glass matting. The resin would set well in ambient temperatures however the workers discovered that in cooler temperatures, which was experienced at the time the work was taking place, the resin finish was sliding down the walls creating an issue with progressing the activity. These blast core workers decided to try and resolve the issue themselves by attempting to warm the resin within the bucket using an electric heat gun so that when applied it would set quicker, as it was intended. This activity was undertaken without informing Evergreen Packaging Ltd of the change in work activity and so no safe working process had been agreed upon and subsequently meant two Rim Core contract workers in a connected vessel were unaware of the operation taking place.
The electric heat gun was accidentally dropped into the bucket of flammable resin at around 5.15am which caused a fire. The blast core workers had no immediate access to a fire extinguisher and therefore evacuated immediately. The fire rose through the vessel into the part where the rim core workers had been working unaware of what was taking place. The workers inhaled the smoke and were unable to evacuate in time.
To see the full safety video demonstration use the following link: Safety video
How could this tragedy have been prevented!
- A risk assessment method statement review should have been undertaken when there was a change / variation in work activity to anticipate dangers. Which may have identified an alternative way to warm resin outside of confined space.
- A hot works procedure should have been implemented for the change in activity which may have identified a different location to warm the resin or use of a battery operated resin rather than electrical and or the identification of the electrical heat gun as an ignition source.
- Consultation with other workers in the vessel and Evergreen to ensure all parties were informed of hazards that may affect them including flammable substances, working in confined space, hot works, fire and use of work equipment.
- A suitable confined space rescue plan for the activity with rescuers on stand by.
- A communicated COSHH Assessment for resin to identify resin flash point.
Heatco failed to identify that the use of a heat gun is an ignition source because it didn’t produce a spark or flame therefore was not incorporated into its hot works procedures.
Reviewing and consulting your workforce on hazardous chemicals used in workplaces, even cleaning chemicals and the risk assessing of all work equipment, is of paramount importance to anticipate possible hazards and properly plan work activities safely.