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Alpha Steel fined for steelworker's burns

Alpha Steel was fined £12,500 this week after a steelworker received horrific burns when he fell through a poorly-welded furnace safety gate and landed on hot metal.
Mark Chard, 30, was working at the firm's Newport plant when the incident happened.

He was clearing out the tap hole of a furnace when a safety gate that had only been tack-welded, gave way under his weight. He plunged 5m into the furnace ladle and landed face first on to hot metal.

In a statement read out to court, Mr Chard described how the gate fell away from the platform he was standing on.

He said: 'I landed in the slag bed and felt the heat and I knew I had to get out of there but there was no one to help.'

After being rescued, he was treated for fractures to both arms as well as his face which was fractured in 16 places.

Mr Chard also suffered burns despite wearing protective clothing and has undergone several skin grafts at Morriston Hospital in Swansea.

Dale Collins, for the Health and Safety Executive, told the court that Mr Chard rarely ventured out of his house because he cannot stand people staring at his disfigured face.

He said Alpha Steel were being prosecuted for two breaches of the Work Place Regulations 1992 Act for failing to install a properly constructed safety gate and for not having proper procedures in place to monitor and maintain said equipment.

The firm pleaded guilty to both breaches of the act at an earlier hearing.

Mr Collins said: 'This defendant has fallen far short of the required standard to provide a safe environment in which to work.'

He added: 'Although this was an isolated accident, the breach was ongoing and nothing was done to prevent it.

Ian Bullock, for Alpha Steel, said a system had now been devised whereby properly welded gates are painted yellow to ensure only the finished product is transferred from the workshop and fitted in the furnace area.

He added: 'Alpha Steel are entitled for credit for their early guilty plea at the magistrates court hearing, for their co-operation and for the measures taken to rectify the problem.

'Furthermore, this could not be categorised as an offence where there was cutting of corners for the employers to obtain profit.'

Mr Bullock added that Alpha Steel continue to pay Mr Chard's wages and hope one day he will be well enough to return to work. Judge David Morris said it was lucky that Mr Chard survived the fall and said Alpha Steel were guilty of two serious breaches.

He said the poorly welded safety gate was a 'risk that should have been obvious to any prudent employer.'

The company was ordered to pay £3,000 in costs.

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