A WORKER at an industrial estate has been prosecuted after his colleague suffered severe burns from a plastic bottle filled with sulphuric acid.

Mark Mellard, 46, has since had two skin grafts to his left thigh, after the highly-corrosive liquid burned through a bottle he had picked up on his way out of the DHL Debenhams warehouse at Sherburn Industrial Estate.

York and Selby Magistrates’ Court heard John Campey had decanted the heavy-duty drain cleaner from its container into an empty plastic Irn Bru bottle and left it next to a sink on June 20 last year.

The court heard Mr Mellard had the bottle in his pocket when he felt it burning. He removed it and threw it away, and rushed to the toilets where he put cold water on his leg which stopped hurting as his nerve endings were damaged, then went home and walked his dog before going to hospital. Campey, from Castleford, and Mr Mellard, have since lost their jobs at the warehouse.

Mr Mellard told The Press: “I’ve been out of work since and it’s going to take two to four years for it to fully heal. I don’t know how I feel about how it’s ended up.”

Campey, who was a representative of the company’s Health and Safety committee and had undergone Care Of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH), training, denied giving the acid to Mr Mellard, but said it had been left unattended. He admitted two counts of breaching Health and Safety regulations.

Mark Monaghan, for Campey, said the sulphuric acid had only been in use at the facility for a week, replacing a weaker drain cleaner which had been previously used.

Mr Monaghan said: “He put it into what he accepts how was not an appropriate container with the intention of going to clean the drain. He had certainly not realised that the new chemical which had been used from the week was considerably stronger and more caustic than the previous drain cleaner.

“Although this is an offence that led to quite a bad injury, it is a case where the difficulty arose because of unfortunate error of judgement not through deliberate effort. In effect, he had to find a smaller container than the new large one that had been used from that week to find some chemical to apply to a blocked drain.”

Mr Mellard said he was also in the process of taking the company to an industrial tribunal, and although he and Campey used to be friends, they had not contacted each other since the incident last year.

Magistrates ordered Campey to carry out 60 hours of unpaid work in the community and to pay £300 towards prosecution costs, and a £60 victim surcharge. The court heard a civil action was also underway, over the matter of compensation for the injured man.

Tim Grogan, senior enforcement officer at Selby District Council, said: “This case demonstrates that Selby District Council will prosecute where health and safety regulations have been breached, and particularly when serious injuries are the consequences. The magistrates recognised the gravity of the matter and I am very satisfied with their findings.”