Sheffield Forgemasters was today ordered to pay £245,000 in fines and costs for safety failings that led to an employee dying of carbon dioxide poisoning after the cellar he was working in filled with the deadly gas.
Labourer Brian Wilkins, 48, was found unconscious at the South Yorkshire foundry after a confined underground area swiftly flooded with the fire-extinguishing mist. Four of his co-workers desperately tried to reach him but were themselves almost overcome by the fast-acting gas.
Mr Wilkins, who had three grown-up sons, was pronounced dead on arrival at hospital after the incident at the firm’s plant on Brightside Lane on 30 May 2008.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigated and prosecuted the company for serious safety failings.
Sheffield Crown Court heard today (19 Dec) that on the morning of the incident, Mr Wilkins carried out part of the cable cutting task in an electrical drawpit and then went to carry out the rest of the job in the switchroom cellar, which was only accessible by lifting a manhole cover and dropping down a ladder.
Once underground at the electrical drawpit, Mr Wilkins used a petrol-driven saw to cut through redundant 33,000 volt cables there. At some point later he moved from there to the nearby switchroom cellar with the saw.