THE death of a scrapyard worker who was engulfed in flames when he was asked to crush thousands of mini aerosols was a preventable tragedy caused by a series of health and safety breaches, a judge has ruled.
Mark Wright, 37, of Wrekin Way, Saltney, died in hospital the day after the explosion at Deeside Metal Co, Saltney on April 12, 2005.
Two companies and one individual were sentenced at Caernarfon Crown Court on Monday after they admitted breaking health and safety laws.
Deeside Metal Co Ltd was fined £100,000 and ordered to pay costs of £10,000, their general manager Robert Roberts was fined £10,000 and Jeyes UK Ltd, where the aerosols originated, was fined £330,000 with £50,000 costs.
The tragedy began at Jeyes UK Ltd, of Bromfield Industrial Estate, Mold, on April 7, 2005, where a failure to segregate hazardous and non-hazardous waste led to 4,000 mini aluminium aerosols being taken from the site by a waste contractor.
On arrival at Deeside Metal, yard manager Robert Roberts, of Golftyn Drive, Connah’s Quay, decided after a brief inspection that it was safe to crush them.
He then told Mr Wright, who was relatively new to the job and had been offered no formal training on the equipment, to go and carry out the task.
When crushed, the aerosols – which still contained as much as 35 litres of flammable material – released a cloud of vapour which ignited at the end of the machine’s cycle, engulfing Mark – father to 15-year-old Leigh and two-year-old Megan – in a ball of fire.
Judge Merfyn Hughes QC said both companies contributed to the death, saying: “Had Jeyes applied the systems that they ought to have had in place, this could have been avoided.”
He went on to add that ‘multiple management’ failures at Deeside Metal also contributed to Mark’s death and dismissed their claim that Roberts was ‘diligent’ in his approach to health and safety.
Director Andrew Graham’s belief that company directors were not responsible for health and safety was described as ‘wholly unacceptable and potentially dangerous’.
Jane Lassey, head of operations for the Health and Safety Executive in Wales, who prosecuted the case, said: “This is a tragic case and must serve as a warning to other companies handling potentially dangerous material about the consequences of not having safe working practices in place.”