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School staff member injured in explosion

A laboratory technician was involved in an explosion which resulted in him losing parts of three fingers and also receiving a serious internal injury. The accident happened while the employee, who had worked at the school for many years, was preparing for a lesson using explosive chemicals to demonstrate how fireworks are made.

The lab tech accidentally ignited the powders and an explosion occurred which caused severe damage to his hands and he also ruptured his bowel.

The HSE’s investigation found that the school had not taken enough preventative measures to ensure the accident couldn’t happen. A Magistrates’ Court heard that explosive substances, namely flash powder and gunpowder, were stored onsite in the school’s storeroom. They heard that the incident could have been avoided if the school had reviewed their management arrangements regularly to control the risks caused by the chemicals and their use and preparation in its teaching activities.

The employee spent 12 days in total in hospital and has now retired. The school admitted that it was in breach of its duty under Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and was fined a total of £26,000 [£8,000 for the section 2 offence and £18,000 for the section 3 offence] and ordered to pay £12,176 costs.

After the hearing, HSE inspector said: “Schools need to have clear health and safety arrangements in place for their staff and students.

“They should set up adequate control systems and ensure that these arrangements are clearly understood and adhered to. They should also follow recognised guidance provided by CLEAPSS (formerly known as the Consortium of Local Education Authorities for the Provision of Science Services) and similar organisations regarding the control of risks to health and safety in practical science work.”

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