Firm pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act

Cement firm Cemex has been fined £200,000 and ordered to pay costs of £172,000 after a man died in an explosion at its Rugby premises.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted Cemex UK Operations, which makes cement and building products for the construction industry, following the death of 28-year-old Peter Reynolds on 15 January 2008.

Reynolds, who was married with an 18-month-old daughter at the time of his death, was killed while treating waste cement dust in the bypass dust plant at the company’s Rugby Cement Works in Lawford Road.

He was cleaning a blockage in the lower mixer when the steam and dust in the machine exploded.

The force of the blast was so great that it blew Reynolds out through the side of the building onto the road 10 metres below. An ambulance crew attended but he was pronounced dead at the scene.

Leamington Spa Crown Court heard that Cemex had failed to review its risk assessment following a previous accident in May 2006, when a man was injured using the same machine. On that occasion the explosion bent a metal-cladded external wall, pushing it out by 50cm.

The company pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE principal inspector Neil Craig said:

“This was an entirely avoidable tragedy, which has left a young family without a husband and a father. If Cemex had investigated the previous incident properly, Mr Reynolds would still be alive today.

“Cemex’s protection against the build-up of pressure was for the plant to be continuously vented when processing waste cement dust, but it frequently blocked. These blockages then caused steam to build up to a high pressure.

“The company could have made a number of changes to the mixer to reduce the flow of dust and improve the venting and cooling systems, or devised a new system of work. However, no action was taken and employees were expected to operate this dangerous piece of machinery.

“Employers must make sure that they take proper precautions to protect their workers, especially when there is the potential for explosion.”

Jane Reynolds, Peter’s mother, said:

“Peter was a wonderful son, husband, father, brother and uncle. His early tragic death has left a hole in our lives that will never be filled.

“The loss we have suffered cannot be measured by money, but we hope today’s fine makes those at the top of Cemex and other firms think about the safety of their workers. After all, they are the ones who get hurt and killed when it all goes wrong.”