Road tanker manufacturer Tasca Tankers has been fined £200,000 after two workers collapsed from exposure to argon gas while carrying out welding work.
The first worker entered a metal tank at the firm’s premises in Wakefield in March 2020 and a few minutes later the second worker looked inside to check on the colleague, who was found slumped at the bottom.
After shouting for help the second worker went into the tank and also collapsed. Emergency services rescued both employees after entering the space with breathing apparatus.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the company had failed to ensure safety of their employees while working in the tanks, classified as a confined space. When inside the tank, the employees suffered asphyxiation resulting from inhalation of argon gas leaking from the welding torch. This resulted in a hypoxic brain injury that left the first worker in a coma for more than 12 days and on waking suffered a loss of memory, the inability to walk, talk and move his left arm.
The HSE said the worker had to learn to walk and talk again. Both workers continue to suffer long lasting physical and psychological effects of this incident.
At Leeds Magistrates’ Court, Tasca Tankers pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act and as well as being fined it was also ordered to pay £7,060 in costs.
HSE inspector Louise Redgrove said: “Two employees very nearly died in an incident which was foreseeable.
“The company had previously received related enforcement action and yet still failed to identify work was taking place inside confined spaces. This incident could so easily have been avoided if the company had ensured robust controls, effective training and emergency procedures were in place and current.