CEMEX UK Paying $588,000 for Fatal Dust Explosion

The penalty consists of a $316,000 fine and $272,000 in costs after CEMEX UK Operations Ltd pleaded guilty to violating Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 in an employee's 2008 death.

Britain's Health and Safety Executive announced CEMEX UK Operations Ltd, which is part of the Mexican company that makes cement and building products for construction projects worldwide, has been fined $316,000 and ordered to pay $272,000 in additional costs in connection with the death of employee Peter Reynolds, 28, on Jan. 15, 2008. HSE, which prosecuted the case, said Reynolds was killed in an explosion so powerful that it blew him through the side of the building onto the road 10 meters below. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Reynolds was treating waste cement dust in the bypass dust plant at the company's Rugby Cement Works and was trying to clear a blockage in the lower mixture when there was an explosion of steam and dust, according to HSE, which said its investigation showed CEMEX UK had recognized the potential for blockages to cause explosions as steam pressure built up inside the mixer but took no action to prevent them. The company did not review its risk assessment after a similar incident in May 2006 when another man was hurt while using the same machine.

"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," said HSE Principal Inspector Neil Craig. "CEMEX's protection against the buildup 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."

Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 states: "It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees."

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