Chorley vehicle parts firm fined after mechanic burned

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Media captionThe van burst into flames with Lee Roberts underneath

A Lancashire vehicle salvage firm has been fined £40,000 after a mechanic suffered severe burns when an inspection pit burst into flames.

CCTV of the incident at Douglas Valley Breakers, Chorley, shows Lee Roberts working in the pit to drain fuel from a van. Seconds later fire breaks out.

The company was prosecuted after an investigation found safety failings.

At Preston Crown Court, the firm was also ordered to pay £25,000 in costs following the incident in 2010.

Mr Roberts received burns to his hands, legs and nose in the fire, and has not been able to return to work since the accident.

The court heard the company regularly removed oil, fuel and other liquid from vehicles ahead of scrapping.

Image caption Lee Roberts was treated for severe burns after the incident in 2010

Fuel tanks were punctured to allow fuel to drain out and an electric drill was sometimes used to create a hole in the tank.

'Wave of flames'

A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation concluded the most likely cause of the fire was fuel set alight by a spark caused by an electric drill or an extension lead.

Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service dealt with the blaze, which grew rapidly to involve the entire workshop.

Mr Roberts said: "I still remember the noise of the petrol fumes igniting and a wave of blue flames engulfing the pit. The pain was instant and intense.

"They put me into an induced coma to stop the pain, and it was at least a couple of days later when I came around. When I woke up, I could feel the pain immediately."

He added: "Even now, more than three years later, I still suffer flashbacks that cause me to wake in the middle of the night in a cold sweat."

The court heard Douglas Valley Breakers should have made sure there were no ignition sources nearby and the fuel should have been drained into a sealed container.

An HSE spokesman said CCTV at the site captured other incidents of "unsafe behaviour", including workers climbing up racks and riding on the forks of a forklift.

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