Cumbrian firm fined for health and safety breaches after fireball incident

A firm from Cumbria has been fined more than £100,000 after workers were injured in a huge fireball incident at its Wigton factory.

The international packaging film manufacturer, Innovia Films Ltd, was investigated and then prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) over the incident, which endangered the lives of two workers.

There was a small fire in an electrical distribution box the day before the incident, but this was extinguished by employees using a CO2 extinguisher. The power supply was also re-routed to a switch that was not damaged so that production quality in the factory, which used cooling equipment, could be maintained.

The very next day, two workers were plating over the damaged switch when they were engulfed in what has been described as “an explosive arc of electrical energy”. This set their clothes on fire, and caused serious burns and injuries which left one employee in a coma for four weeks and another facing a nine week hospital stay.

Carlisle Crown Court heard that whether because of negligence or insufficient fire safety training, a proper risk assessment had not been carried out before the two workers started their work. For putting their employees lives at risk, Innovia Films Ltd was ordered to pay £90,000 in fines and £26,790 in court costs.