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Employee burnt whilst cleaning electric stirrer

An employee received burns when a drum containing acetone caught fire whilst he was cleaning a portable electric stirrer that was double insulated but not suitable for use in an explosive atmosphere. The employee only switched the stirrer on briefly. He had been given no training or instruction for an alternative method of cleaning and it was found everyone cleaned the resin coated stirrer this way. This was an unsafe system of work.

Action

The employer was prosecuted under the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974, Section 2(1) and received a fine.

Comment

The workers should have been instructed how to clean the stirrer without putting themselves at risk and a safe system of work established in the presence of a potentially explosive atmosphere. Advice should have been available from the manufacturer of the stirrer on how to do this safely.

The use of electricity in potentially explosive atmospheres is covered on another page of the electrical safety website.

The downloadable HSE guidance Controlling the risks in the workplace provides guidance on how to select measures to control the risks in a wide range of work activities. The downloadable leaflet Controlling fire and explosion risks in the workplace provides guidance on how to identify potentially explosive atmospheres in your workplace.

Updated 2013-01-30