Petrol tank decommissioning with grinder lands boss in court

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Construction firm MWJ Construction Ltd and managing director Marcin Wojtas has received a suspended sentence after an employee suffered severe burns after using a grinder to decommission an old petrol tank on a site in Swynecombe, Oxfordshire.

The Court at Milton Keynes Magistrates heard how managing director of MWJ Construction Ltd, Marcin Wojtas failed to take any reasonably practicable precautions for the decommissioning of a petrol tank, which resulted in an explosion injuring the worker.

An HSE investigation into the incident that occurred on 9 July 2018, found that the injured person and another operative were instructed by Wojtas to use an angle grinder to remove the tank lid to speed up the decommissioning work.

While carrying out the work, the petrol vapours within the tank were ignited and an explosion occurred. The injured person sustained burns to 26% of their body.

Further to the disregard of the saftey of his workers the investigation also found Wojtas had been informed by an officer from the Petroleum Enforcing Authority that the work to decommission the fuel tank was a specialised operation and needed to be completed by a competent contractor.

Neither operative had any of the training, experience or knowledge required to make them competent.

Marcin Wojtas of London pleaded guilty to safety breaches and was given a six month suspended sentence and ordered to pay total costs of £8,455.48.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector David Tonge commented saying: “The accident could have been prevented if the work was appropriately planned through an adequate risk assessment.

“Had this been the case, competent operatives would have conducted the work, the tank would have had its hazardous contents (petrol vapour and petrol) removed safely and equipment appropriate to use around an explosive atmosphere would have been used.”