Pyronix Limited, a manufacturing firm which supplies intruder alarm equipment, has been sentenced and fined following a prosecution by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) for safety breaches after an employee suffered flash burns to her face, neck, chest and both arms.

The employee worked in an aspect of the manufacturing process which involved dipping printed circuit boards (PCBs) in Fluorocoat thin film coating, a highly flammable substance, to provide humidity protection.

Sheffield Magistrates’ Court heard that in April 2015 the injured employee was dipping baskets containing a variety of the PCBs which had batteries installed prior to dipping. As the worker removed a basket from the tank, she saw a “burning cloud” go through the tank and suffered severe burns as a result of the Fluorocoat being ignited.

An investigation by the HSE found that changes needed to be made in the planning of this activity. A number of modifications were introduced to the tank and process, which included not installing the battery into the PCB until after dipping, adding local exhaust ventilation to the tank and incorporating measures to control static. Employees also received additional training. The HSE felt that these were measures that should have already been in place to ensure safe working practices.

Pyronix pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and was fined £140,000 with £3133.25 costs.

Philippa Luscombe, partner in the personal injury team at Penningtons Manches LLP, comments: “Unfortunately there are still a high number of workplace accidents in the UK which involve flammable materials. Every year we are instructed by employees who have suffered injuries at work and a percentage of these include burn injuries. In a majority of cases, the injury has occurred because of obvious risks in working practices and/or a lack of training and maintenance.

“The employee in this case suffered serious burns and it is clear that the HSE was of the view that her employer, Pyronix, had not taken sufficient steps to assess and manage employee safety when working with these flammable materials. This is a substantial fine and another example of how the HSE is now taking a hard line approach to prosecuting companies where it feels that employee / worker safety has not been given sufficient attention. We hope that lessons will have been learned.”