Welder died after shirt caught fire while working alone, inquest told
A WELDER died after being badly burned when his shirt caught light during a job, an inquest heard.
Martyn Heal was working alone for Ian Blake at Tuckers & Cabot in Portbury, when his lumberjack shirt suddenly ignited on February 16, 2011.
Mr Heal tried to use the sink tap but only a little water came out – he then phoned his wife and then Mr Blake requesting he came back to work.
The 56-year-old of Beam Street, Barton Hill, had suffered extensive burns to his back, left arm and side.
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It is unclear exactly how Mr Heal's shirt had ignited.
The incident was not reported to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) until weeks later.
His wife Kim, a nurse, took him to hospital the same day where he suffered respiratory problems linked to the burns and died on July 1.
The details were heard yesterday at a jury inquest being held at Flax Bourton Coroner's Court.
At the hearing Mr Blake, who agreed to pay Mr Heal £60 a day, three days a week, conceded his small business had no emergency procedure, accident book, record of welder maintenance or anyone on site trained in first aid or health and safety.
He said protective overalls were available on site but that he did not insist Mr Heal, who was an experienced welder, wear them.
Describing the day of the accident, Mr Blake said: "He phoned me saying could I come back to work because he had had an accident. All I remember is seeing his hand and it was black.
"I remember seeing his shirt on the floor – it was badly burnt.
"I asked whether he had phoned an ambulance. He said he had phoned his wife and could I take him to her because she was a nurse and would know what to do.
"I said I should take him to the hospital but he insisted that I take him home. I think he didn't want to tell anyone because I was paying him cash-in-hand and he didn't want me to get into trouble."
Mr Heal returned to his wife who described to the court her memory of the day in question.
"He phoned me about 1pm and said he had been burnt and was coming home," she said.
"The first thing I saw was his hand which was badly burnt.
"He asked me to take his jacket off and the whole of his back was badly burnt from his neck to his waist.
"I took him to the hospital and he was in a lot of pain."
HSE inspector Christine Haberfield said the investigation had been "difficult" because it had not been reported immediately.
She said the employer-employee relationship between Mr Heal and Mr Blake was pivotal within health and safety law. If Mr Heath was an employee Mr Blake would have a significant duty of care towards him while if he was a contractor that duty of care would be far less.
Small business best practice expert Anne Bartlett said from the papers she had seen she had concluded that the arrangements and provision at the business were not sufficient.
Pathologist Dr Edward Sheffield said in his opinion Mr Heal had died from pneumonia and a lung abscess that resulted from the burn injuries.
The inquest continues.