UK: Cemex UK has been fined Euro230,000 following the death of a worker in an explosion at its Rugby cement plant. The UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted Cemex after the death of 28-year-old Peter Reynolds on 15 January 2008.
Leamington Spa Crown Court heard that Reynolds was treating waste cement dust in the bypass dust plant at the company's Rugby Cement Works. While he was clearing a blockage in the lower mixer, there was a violent explosion of steam and dust from inside the machine. The force of the explosion blew Reynolds out through the side of the building onto the road ten metres below. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
HSE's investigation into the incident found that Cemex had recognised the potential for blockages to cause explosions as steam pressure built up within the mixer but it took no action to prevent them. The court also heard the company had failed to review its risk assessment following a previous incident in May 2006, when another man was injured using the same machine. This explosion bent a metal-cladded external wall, pushing it out by 50cm.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE Principal Inspector Neil Craig said, "This was an entirely avoidable tragedy, which has left a young family without a husband and a father. If Cemex had investigated the previous incident properly, Mr Reynolds would still be alive today."
"Cemex's protection against the build up of pressure was for the plant to be continuously vented when processing waste cement dust, but it frequently blocked. These blockages then caused steam to build up to a high pressure."
"The company could have made a number of changes to the mixer to reduce the flow of dust and improve the venting and cooling systems, or devised a new system of work. However, no action was taken and employees were expected to operate this dangerous piece of machinery."
Cemex UK pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The company was fined Euro230,000 and ordered to pay Euro200,000 costs.