An engineering company in Great Yarmouth has been fined after an incident in which a teenage welder suffered burns to his face and one of his eyes.

Jack Amey, from Caister-on-Sea, was just 17 at the time of the incident at Moughton Engineering’s factory on the Gapton Hall industrial estate in Great Yarmouth in October 2010.

He was instructed by another welder to use a toxic cleaning substance called pickling paste to remove burn marks inside a number of small stainless steel tanks but left without supervision. The paste contains acids that can cause severe burns if it comes into contact with skin.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found as Jack was cleaning one of the tanks, the tub of paste slipped from his grasp and hit a bench with some or the tub’s contents landing on his face. This left him with severe chemical burns to his skin and right eye. Fortunately his injuries later healed with no significant scarring or long-term effects.

Great Yarmouth Magistrates’ Court heard Jack was unaware of the hazardous nature of pickling paste and should not have been using it. Moughton Engineering had previously banned the product’s use, as its corrosive effects posed a danger to staff, and replaced it with a safer electrode-based cleaning system. However, an amount was subsequently purchased for one piece of work but without any system in place to ensure its safe use.

This was spotted by management, which again stopped its use but failed to ensure it was removed from site. This paste was subsequently given to the teenager to use by an older member of staff who was unaware of the ban.

Moughton Engineering, of Faraday Road, Great Yarmouth, pleaded guilty to breaching section 2 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and were fined £6,000 and ordered to pay costs of £4,846.80.

After the hearing, HSE Inspector Martin Kneebone said:

“Moughton Engineering knew the risks that pickling paste posed and even banned its use. But they failed to have effective management systems in place to ensure the ban was enforced and some was subsequently bought for a new task.

“This young man was let down by his employer and could have suffered far more serious injuries than he actually did, potentially even losing his sight.”