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Roxel (Rocket Motor) Ltd, an engineering company from Worcestershire, has been fined more than £380,000 and ordered to pay costs of £60,000 after an employee was injured when inspecting a rocket motor which exploded.

The employee was apparently using a fibre optic light to illuminate a conduit on the charge of the motor when the propellant was ignited by the heat from the light. The charge burned for approximately 10 seconds sending flames and gases out of both ends until it burnt out. The room where the ignition occurred was set on fire and also present in that room were four explosives charges and a Vulcan rocket motor. There was also a further 230kg of explosive charges in the magazine that is next door to the room, which still had the magazine doors open. Two employees were working in the room and an agency worker was present in the magazine when the ignition occurred. It was foreseeable that other propellants and charges in the room and magazine could have been ignited by the Titus charge and the subsequent fires.

At the time of the incident the company did not know what type or volume of explosives were in the building and hence could not inform the emergency services as to the level of risk. The potential to cause harm was massive due to excessive explosives material being present in the building and the number of people present nearby; including the emergency services.

It took the company well over an hour to understand the hazards present and react to the situation. The on-site emergency plan was not made available to the Fire and Rescue Services, meaning they too were put at risk.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive into the incident found that there was a lack of assessments of the risks and no safe system of work in place. In addition the emergency plan was not implemented.

In almost all jobs there are dangers and risks that need to be managed to avoid injuries to employees, customers and the general public. In situations where dangers are more prevalent it is vital that risks are identified and procedures put in place to minimize the chance of injury. Working with explosive charges and rocket motors is no exception, and the dangers should have been thought through, but even the most docile workplaces can have risks which, if not carefully managed, can cause serious injury or even death. If you have been injured in your work place, our solicitors could help you get the compensation you deserve – contact us today to see how we can help.