Vehicle salvage company fined after mechanic suffers serious burns


A vehicle salvage company in Lancashire has been fined £40,000 following an incident that saw on of its mechanics severely burnt.

Mechanic Lee Roberts was in the vehicle inspection pit at Douglas Valley Breakers in Chorley where he was draining fuel from a Citroen van before the pit spontaneously combusted.

He managed to pull himself out of the flaming trench but suffered sever burns in the process.

The Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service were called out to the scene and tackled the blaze, which had rapidly got out of control and began to engulf the entire workshop.

According to the BBC, the firm was ordered to pay £25,000 in costs at Preston Crown Court following the incident in 2010 and was prosecuted for a number of other safety failings.

Roberts suffered burns to his hands, legs and face when the pit burst into flames and has not been able to return to work since the accident happened.

The court heard how the company regularly removed oil, fuel and other liquids from vehicles ahead of breaking and how vehicle fuel tanks were punctured using an electric drill to allow fuel to drain out.

An investigation carried out by a Health and Safety Executive found the most likely cause of the accident to be fuel ignited by a spark, which would have been caused by an electric drill or extension lead.

The court ruled that Douglas Valley Breakers should have ensured that there were no ignition sources in the inspection pit and that the fuel should have been drained into a sealed container.

Roberts told the BBC: "I still remember the noise of the petrol fumes igniting and a wave of blue flames engulfing the pit. The pain was instant and intense.

"They put me into an induced coma to stop the pain, and it was at least a couple of days later when I came around. When I woke up, I could feel the pain immediately."

He added: "Even now, more than three years later, I still suffer flashbacks that cause me to wake in the middle of the night in a cold sweat."

An HSE spokesman said the on-site CCTV camera that captured the accident also caught other incidents of 'unsafe behaviour' such as workers standing on the forks of a forklift while it was being operated.

Click on the BBC links above to see CCTV footage