Half-A-Million Pound Financial Sanction After New Dad Dies In Firework Explosion

In the closing stages of March 2023, the Health and Safety Executive through the vehicle of the Peterborough Magistrates Court imposed a substantial half-a-million-pound financial sanction on a manufacturing business specializing in the making of pyrotechnic fireworks. The authorities seem to have taken the issue so seriously as there was evidence presented to the Magistrates Court suggesting a link between regulatory violations of health and safety requirements and an incident that occurred in the early portion of October of 2018 whereby as member of the workforce carrying out his normal day-to-day-activities on the production line and making firework products was killed as a direct result of his employer’s regulatory failings. The seeming legal reasoning behind the imposition of financial sanctions was to make the business accountable for its legally obligatory inaction and to serve as a deterrent to all those organizations in the field as to what could potentially be in store for them if they fall below the required regulatory standards expected of them.  

What Happened In The Case? 

The life of the member of the workforce at the center of the proceedings was progressing well. He was residing in Peterborough and just over half a year later before the tragic incident, he had heard the pitter-patter of tiny feet when his first child had been born. He was very well thought of and those who knew him believed he was a good person to be around. He had been successful in the workplace too and had been working in the manufacturing industry. His day-to-day activities involved the production of products of a pyrotechnic nature for a firework-producing business.  

However, his professional and personal success seem to have come crashing down one fateful way when he was working in the working environment in early October 2018 when one of the pyrotechnic fireworks somehow caught fire, set alight, and resulted in a significant eruption. On the evidence, the colleague was mixing ingredients as he would do each day. However, this time things were different as the amalgamation caught fire resulting in a major blast causing the member of the workforce significant burn-related injuries. 
Despite the efforts of the independent medical practitioners, the member of the workforce could not be saved and he sadly passed away owing to the direct consequence of the burn-related injuries he had received the next day.          

Feet to the Fire?

Owing to the seriousness of the events which had occurred and the fatality suffered by the member of the workforce the Health and Safety Executive felt compelled to launch an independent investigation into the business. In doing so, it observed on the evidence it had uncovered that the firework manufacturing company had neglected its legal and regulatory accountabilities to provide a working environment whereby it safeguards the health, well-being, and safety of the members of the workforce carrying out their daily work-related activities under its inherent jurisdiction. In this regard, from a legal perspective, it held the firework manufacturing business liable for violations of sections two and thirty-three of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. To make an example of the organization it imposed a financial sanction of over half a million pounds. 

Lessons Learned? 

Manufacturing businesses dealing with potentially explosive substances involving the likelihood of explosion should remember their legal obligations and take the following action: 

  • safeguard members of the workforce from experiencing burn-related injuries
  • provide the correct level of oversight
  • assess the chances of substances catching fire
  • mitigate the risk of a fire starting in the workplace and
  • ensure license conditions are complied with if required.   

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