A Tyneside electroplating firm has been prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after an employee was soaked with a toxic chemical leaving him suffering serious chemical burns.

Michael Reid, aged 66, from South Shields was working for DMI (UK) Ltd as an electroplater when the accident happened on 30 January 2011.

He was using a stripping tank which needed topping up regularly from a drum filled with a concentrate of highly corrosive sodium hydroxide.

Mr Reid sustained serious chemical burns to his legs and torso when the hose attached to the pump disconnected, soaking him in the concentrated chemical.

He spent two weeks in hospital and underwent several skin graft operations; he did not return to work following the accident and retired in July 2011.

HSE discovered Health and Safety failings

The HSE investigating the accident found that the hose had been secured to the pump using tape, the company had failed to carry out a risk assessment and did not carry out safety checks to ensure the hose was fit for purpose. Mr Reid and his colleagues did not have adequate training on handling corrosive chemicals and the protective equipment provided did not offer sufficient protection.

DMI (UK) Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, they were fined £12,000 and ordered to pay £4,081 in costs at North Tyneside Magistrates' Court.

Accident could easily have been prevented

HSE Inspector Shuna Rank, said: “Companies have a duty to ensure that hazards at work are managed so that they do not put employees and others at risk.

“This case illustrates what can go wrong and as a result of DMI (UK) Ltd's failings a long-serving employee suffered serious chemical burns.

“This incident should never have happened. Had the hose been properly attached to the pump it would not have occurred and basic systems to check and maintain equipment could have prevented it.

“In addition employees should have received training to ensure they were fully aware of the risks associated with handling concentrated sodium hydroxide.”

Mick Laffey, a solicitor at Thompsons Solicitors’ Serious Injuries Team said: “Safe handling, storage and use of hazardous substances in the workplace is vital to preventing accidents such as this. Mr Reid will no doubt suffer with lifelong complications as a result of his injuries, including disfiguring scars and the potential of future treatment.”