Cumbrian packaging firm fined for health and safety breaches

A global packaging firm has been fined £90,000 for health and safety breaches after a worker suffered severe burns at one of their plants.

Gordon Metcalf, 62, from Maryport suffered severe burns when a ball of fire shot out from a fuse box he was cleaning and set his clothes alight.

The Health and Safety Executive prosecuted Innovia Films following an investigation into the cause of the blaze at its plant in Wigton on 13 September, 2006.

A HSE inquiry found that there had been a fire in the fuse box the previous day but live cables had been routed through it so the factory’s cooling equipment could continue to operate.

When Metcalf came into work the following day he was asked to remove debris from the fuse box and plate over the front to prevent access.

Metcalf suffered burns to 47% of his body in the explosion. He was in a coma for four weeks and hospital for five months.

Carlisle Crown Court heard that doctors thought Metcalf was unlikely to survive due to the extent of his injuries.

Metcalf, who is married with two children and two grandchildren, said: “I still cry at the drop of a hat. If someone asks what’s happened to me, that’s the hardest bit. I wake up in the middle of the night and just can’t get back to sleep once I start thinking about it.

“I remember the fireball just knocking me backwards, and I split my head open. I managed to get downstairs to some water, and only realised I was on fire when I saw my arm on the handrail.

“When I came out of hospital, I had to wear a suit over my head and body for a year and could only take it off to wash. I still have to apply cream three times a day to stop the scarring getting any worse.

“There’s no way I can return to return to work as an electrician as I struggle to grip with my hands. I’m also constantly short of breath and my skin flakes off if I knock my hand. I just wish Innovia had cut the electricity supply before asking us to do the work.”