A 21-year-old worker – who was not named – sustained 20% burns to his head, neck and hands after a fire at Alcohol Ltd’s warehouse on the site of its distillery in Oldbury, West Midlands.
The fire destroyed the warehouse and caused damage to nearby cars and houses.
Wolverhampton Crown Court heard how ethyl acetate – a highly flammable liquid – was being transferred from a bulk storage tank into an intermediate bulk container.
The fire was most likely caused by a discharge of static electricity generated by the transfer of the liquid, according to an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive on November 26 2012.
The HSE said there was poor maintenance on pipework and associated valves and that there was a failure to competently inspect or monitor Alcohol Ltd’s employees’ systems of work.
Alcohols Ltd of Bishop’s Stortford, Hertfordshire, pleaded guilty to breaching Sections 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.
The company was fined £270,000 and ordered to pay costs of £25,009.
After the hearing, HSE inspector Kieron Jones said: “Companies that fail to ensure the integrity of their safety critical equipment place their employees, members of the public, emergency services and their entire livelihood at risk of serious harm.
“Poor management of highly flammable liquids can have catastrophic results both for individuals and businesses.”
Alcohol Ltd’s Oldbury site houses both its distilling and industrial alcohol storage operations.
Meanwhile, malting company Pauls Malt Ltd was fined £100,000 for safety failings, after an agency worker plunged from a ladder.
Falling 2m, the worker suffered two fractures to his right foot and bruising to his chest and head injuries when he fell.