The sole owner and Director of a construction company based in Herefordshire has been sentenced to 8 months in custody after pleading guilty to a health and safety breach that resulted in the death of two brothers.
The court heard how owner of the company had been contracted by the owners of an industrial park with a view to refurbish several of the units.
The two brothers had been employed as labourers and were working inside one of the units when an explosive fire occurred, causing both brothers to suffer near 100 per cent burns with both dying within 12 hours of the incident. A third man who was working with them also suffered severe burns but survived the incident.
A joint investigation by Hertfordshire Constabulary and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the three men had been provided by the Director with several litres of highly flammable “thinners”, which was poured onto the floor remove old dried carpet tile adhesive.
The investigation found that the Director had given no serious consideration to the safe use of the thinners, despite the obvious warnings on the containers, and that the vapour had spread over an area up to half the size of a tennis court, which was ignited by one of several possible ignition sources that were in the area.
This tragic incident which led to the death of the two brothers, was wholly avoidable. The risks associated with the use of highly flammable liquids are well known, and employers should make sure the risks from such substances are adequately assessed, and that safer alternatives are use where at all possible. Where the use of flammable solvents is unavoidable, then the method of use and the environment in which they are to be used must be strictly controlled to prevent any ignition.