Workers survive electrical fireball
A global packaging firm has been fined £90,000 and £26,790 costs after two workers suffered life-threatening injuries when they were engulfed by a fireball at a factory in Cumbria. Gordon Metcalf, 62, and apprentice electrician Raymond Crumpler, were about to clean debris from a damaged fuse box when a ball of fire shot out, setting their clothes alight. Innovia Films Ltd was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) following an investigation into the cause of the fire at the plant in Wigton on 13 September 2006. Carlisle Crown Court heard how bosses at Innovia Films Ltd, which has production sites in the UK, USA, Belgium and Australia, had chosen not to turn off the power to the damaged fuse box because this would have necessitated a 36-hour shutdown of the whole plant. So when works electrician Gordon Metcalf started cleaning out the debris next morning he was working so close to a live electric cable that he caused a huge explosion that nearly killed him and the apprentice helping him. The court heard both Mr Metcalf, who had worked at the factory for 19 years, and Mr Crumpler might have died but for 'advances in medical science in the treatment of burns injury patients'. Mr Metcalf who suffered burns to 47 per cent of his body, is still undergoing treatment for his burns, nearly five years on, and will never be able to return to work. He was in a coma for four weeks, intensive care for six weeks and in hospital for five months. His colleague's injuries were less severe and he has now been able to find employment. Mr Metcalf, who is married with two children and two grandchildren, said: 'I still cry at the drop of a hat. If someone asks what's happened to me, that's the hardest bit. I wake up in the middle of the night and just can't get back to sleep once I start thinking about it.' He added: 'I just wish Innovia had cut the electricity supply before asking us to do the work.'
Issued: 22 July, 2011