Coffee break 'saved blast factory worker's life'

A factory worker said today that a coffee break saved his life after an explosion sent an iron girder crashing on to his workbench.

The father of four, from Ancoats, Manchester, was blown off his feet by the force of the blast which lifted the factory roof and sent the five-foot long girder flying through the air. Mr Lomas, a machine operator in the factory, suffered injuries to his chest and arm in the incident caused by a high pressure machine used to manufacture rubber rollers exploding.

Yesterday the firm, based on Hoyle Street in Manchester, was fined £10,000 at Trafford Magistrates' Court following a prosecution by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) for not properly maintaining machinery.

Mr Lomas said: "Whenever I think about it, it just makes me realise how close I was to not coming home that night and never seeing my family again. It's given me a few sleepless nights. It just happened that, on that day, I'd got to work ten minutes earlier than normal so had set up my machine and gone to make a coffee before the explosion.

"I was walking back to my workbench when the force of the explosion blew me back about 15 feet. If I'd got to work at my usual time then I'd have been killed without a doubt. The girder would have cut me in half."

The factory closed down following the incident, on February 19, 2008, and Mr Lomas has been unable to return to work.

The Moseley Rubber Company pleaded guilty to breaching Regulations 9(1)(a) and 12 of the Pressure Systems Safety Regulations 2000 by failing to arrange a routine inspection of the machine and by failing to maintain it. The company was ordered to pay an additional £8,153 towards the cost of the prosecution, as well as the £10,000 fine and the HSE issued a total of 12 Prohibition Notices banning the use of other machines after inspectors visited the factory.

HSE inspector Matt Greenly said: "Incredibly, Dave only suffered minor injuries in the explosion but there could easily have been several deaths. It's shocking that the Moseley Rubber Company appears to have had such little concern for the safety of its workers, allowing them to work with potentially dangerous machinery for several years.

"The company failed to service the machine for more than a decade, after cancelling its annual shutdown for routine maintenance. It also ignored its legal duty to make sure a routine inspection was carried out by a qualified inspector.

"This case demonstrates how important it is for manufacturing companies to take their health and safety responsibilities seriously. It simply isn't acceptable to cut back on safety to try and make short-term gains."

There were 32 deaths and 22,407 serious injuries in the manufacturing sector last year according to the HSE.

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