Rainham company fined after employees seriously burnt by fireball

General views of Southwark Crown Court in south London.

General views of Southwark Crown Court in south London. - Credit: PA Archive/Press Association Ima

A family-run refrigeration business was fined £22,500 today after two employees were seriously injured in an explosion.

Jonathan Edwards and James Bellingham both suffered severe burns when they were engulfed in a fireball at the site of CLB Refrigeration in Ferry Lane, Rainham, on October 12 2012.

The company admitted two counts of breaching health and safety regulations following the incident, after which Mr Edwards spent five months in hospital recovering from 60 degree burns to his face and torso.

The company was given a £22,500 fine at Southwark Crown Court for failing to assess a risk and failure to eliminate and reduce a risk in contravention of the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmosphere regulations.

Catherine Rabiotti, prosecuting, told the court that Mr Edwards, 30, had been a trainee at the company for two months when the incident happened.

He and Mr Bellingham, 23, were using paint thinner borrowed from another company, which came into contact with a brazier being used to burn waste.

Judge Martin Beddoe said: “Mr Edwards was very seriously injured – much more so than the other.

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“The most probable explanation for the accident itself is that Mr Edwards, who had been a trainee for only two months, poured paint thinner onto that brazier.”

He added: “The defendant company fell far below what was required of it.

“This was a small company and it seems to me that smallness of it undermines the prospect that it had an excuse for its lack of involvement [in assessing the risk].”

Mr Edwards has not worked since the accident, the court was told.

The court heard that the company’s actions had not been the cause of the two men’s injuries.

It was also ordered to pay £9,243 in costs.