Philip Dutton had been burning waste materials in a skip when he poured surface cleaner onto the fire to act as an accelerant. When he did so, the fire ignited and the can he was holding exploded. He suffered severe burns and was in hospital for four months following the incident. Southend-on-Sea Borough Council carried out an investigation and found that it was routine for employees to use accelerants when burning items on site, despite the clear risks involved. Mr Dutton had failed to implement measures to protect against those risks. Mr Dutton pleaded guilty to a charge under section 7 of the HSWA 1974 (breach of the duty of employees to take reasonable care of the health and safety of himself and others) and was given a four month prison sentence suspended for two years. He was also ordered to pay £5k costs. Prosecutions under Section 7 of the HSWA are rare but the decision to prosecute Mr Dutton under this section, notwithstanding his injuries, is likely to reflect the Council’s view of the severity of the breach. Mr Dutton has since moved to Cyprus to rebuild his life.
His employers, South Essex Stockholders, pleaded guilty to two offences under section 2(1) of the HSWA 1974 at earlier hearings which related to unsafe activity of burning waste and the way chemicals were stored on site. The company was fined £20k for both offences and ordered to pay costs of £7,640, with the Managing Director, Richard Rout, also receiving a formal caution.