Deadly maintenance 'shambles' costs AETC £377,500

Source: on 2013-07-08 12:40:00

Leeds-based AETC's maintenance safety procedures were described as “a shambles” by the judge. Graham Britten was inside a vacuum casting furnace fixing a fault at the company's precision casting and turbine blade machining facility at Yeadon in Leeds when the main isolation valve closed suddenly, trapping his head and killing him. The incident, on 4 November 2009, happened after the main isolation valve that slides shut to divide the furnace's two chambers had stuck partly closed. Britten had climbed on the rising table in the lower chamber to examine the valve when it suddenly closed on his head, causing fatal injuries. The HSE's investigation revealed that AETC, which makes turbine components for aircraft and power stations did not have a fit isolation procedure for maintenance on the furnace which would have ensured the furnace was completely powered down and all stored energy in the valve had been spent before Britten was allowed into the chamber. This was despite repeated warnings to management from its own health and safety manager over several years. “There were two issues here,” explained HSE inspector Angus Robbins. Firstly, the furnace operators routinely climbed into the furnace to clean, thinking that when the furnace doors were open the valve could not move. This was not the case and they were continually at risk. “Secondly, there was no safe system for maintenance work. There were no isolation procedures and, as a result, the fitters developed their own methods of working. The maintenance work that Mr Britten was carrying out was not unforeseen and the jamming of the isolation valve was a recurring problem which AETC knew about. “When the valve jammed, air pressure continued to build up in the cylinder that drives the valve such that, when the jam was cleared, the stored energy caused the valve to close rapidly with tragic consequences.” On 5 July at Leeds Crown Court, AETC, which is part of the PCC Airfoils group, was fined £300,000 and ordered to pay £77,500 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act. Sentencing the firm, Judge Tom Bayliss said: “At the time of the accident there was no robust system in place to ensure safety during maintenance. It was left to the discretion of the fitters. It was, I'm sorry to say, a shambles.” Standfirst: A precision engineering firm must pay £377,500 in fines and costs for longstanding safety failings that led to the death of a worker in a furnace. Issue: HSW September 2013Author: Louis WustemannCategory: TrainingNews Type: ProsecutionsIndustry: Financial/general servicesConstructionRelated Items: Worker killed in furnace fireball was not wearing PPESteel giant Tata fined for machinery isolation failures £100k fine for pneumatic isolation failures Add to Carousel: noColour balance: Light text for use over a dark imageText position: Bottom Left aligned text

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