A SPECIALIST chemical company from Merseyside has pleaded guilty to health and safety charges after a worker suffered “horrific injuries” following an explosion in its factory.
SAFC Hitech Ltd, based in Bromborough, admitted two offences at Wirral magistrates court following the incident almost a year ago.
Their 44-year-old employee was left in a critical condition and taken to the Royal Liverpool Hospital with extensive burns to his face and arms.
Emergency services were called at about 8.10am on Tuesday, February 28, 2012, to the SAFC premises, in Dock Road South, following reports of “a chemical spill”.
Ambulance, fire, police and the Health and Safety Executive attended the factory and an investigation was later launched.
Prosecuting for the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Simon Parrington, said the worker was in hospital for three months and that pictures of his injuries, not shown to the court, were “truly horrific”.
According to the company’s website, the 100-worker manufacturing site specialises in hazardous gas handling, material waste treatment and process safety evaluation.
Mr Parrington said the employee had been working with a chemical, trimethylindium or TMI, which can “combust spontaneously on contact with air”.
He said: “It effectively blew up, he caught light and was terribly badly burned. He could easily have been killed, it was very serious indeed.”
Mr Parrington said the worker had been in hospital for almost three months following the “flash explosion”.
He called on the magistrates to pass the case on to the crown court, who can impose higher fines than the maximum £40,000 allowed by the lower court.
According to Mr Parrington the company has a turnover “in excess of £32m and pretax profits of £5m”.
He said: “Your powers of sentence are limited to a £20,000 fine for each matter, and it’s accepted the fine is likely to be several times that.”
Mark Balysz said SAFC Hitech Ltd is a company of good character and “bitterly regrets one of its valued employees suffered these injuries”.
He said: “This is reflected in that the company is pleading guilty at the first opportunity.”
While he disputed Mr Parrington’s claim that the fines likely to be imposed by the crown court could be “several times” the maximum that would be possible in the magistrates court, he did accept it “may be more than £40,000.”
Mr Balysz said: “We are realistic that the matter should be committed to the crown court.”
Chairman of the magistrates bench, Peter Mawdsley said it had been a “horrific accident involving an innocent worker” and added: “We are pleased the company has pleaded guilty promptly to this, and agree the matter should go the crown court.”
The case is due to be next heard at Liverpool Crown Court during the week starting March 4.