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£91,000 fine after man suffers "horrific" injuries.

A Morecambe firm, Fuel Proof Ltd, has been ordered to pay £91,000.00 by Preston Crown Court after a worker cleaning a fuel tank was seriously injured in a blast.

The firm, which makes airport fuel tanks, admitted safety failings at an earlier hearing.  The prosecution was brought by the Health and Safety Executive.

The employee, Karol Robaczewski, 38, of Morecambe was inside a fuel tank when he was engulfed by a fire ball on 09 September 2011. The blast caused severe burns and left him almost completely paralysed and reliant on a wheelchair.

The Health and Safety Executive said that the employee was cleaning the inside of the tank using a cloth with a highly flammable solvent when he unplugged a lamp which was getting hot.  As he did so, a spark caused the explosion. The fire melted the visor on his mask and his protective suit and only the elastic from the collar and cuffs were left.

Fuel Proof Ltd was fined £66,000.00 in order to pay prosecution costs of £25,000.00 after pleading guilty to breaching section 3.1 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.  HSE inspector, Rose Leese-Weller said “Karol suffered horrific injuries in the explosion and will need to use a wheelchair for the rest of his life. It is shocking that Fuel Proof allowed workers to use a highly flammable solvent to clean the inside of fuel tanks for 4 years without  giving a single thought to the risks.  What is even more appalling is that there was never any need for workers to use solvents to clean the tanks, as the company now uses soapy water to clean them out”.

Mr Robaczewski said “I wish that what has happened to me never happens to anyone else.  I am not able to lift my arms, move my legs and feet or hold anything in my fingers and hands. Every morning after breakfast, I move into my wheelchair and stay there until it is time for bed. I am not able to do anything I used to do before the accident such as drive, go to karate sessions or play my trumpet, which I have played since the age of 12.  I cannot play football with my son or give my children a cuddle, and my life will never be the same again”.

Speaking of the criminal case Richard Wood of the CNCI team said, "This was a terrible incident which has caused devastating injuries. The HSE have made it clear that this system of work was both highly dangerous and entirely unnecessary".