YORKSHIRE Water has been fined £733,000 after one of its workers suffered fatal burns when his clothing burst into flames.

Michael Jennings, a fitter with the company, was working with an angle grinder in the bottom of a dry well at Tadcaster Sewage Treatment Works when sparks caused his overalls to catch fire, heard Leeds Crown Court.

Mr Jennings, 55, from Holme-on-Spalding-Moor, suffered whole body burns in the incident, on July 20, 2015, and died in hospital two days later.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that a drain valve was half-opened and the atmosphere within the dry well was oxygen-enriched, greatly increasing the risk of fire.

It also found that a near miss had been recorded at the same site in September 2014. Employees had found the interior of a lane to be heavily oxygen-enriched and had alerted local managers, but the warning had not been acted on.

Yorkshire Water pleaded guilty to a health and safety breach and on Tuesday, September 18, was fined £733,000 and costs of £18,818.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector John Micklethwaite said Mr Jennings' death had been a "tragic and wholly avoidable incident", saying the company had failed to implement an adequate and effective safe system of work.

He added: “Those in control of work activities have a duty to identify hazards that could arise, to eliminate or to mitigate them, and to devise suitable safe systems of work."

Yorkshire Water chief executive Richard Flint said: “Our thoughts are with Mick Jennings’ family, friends and colleagues and anyone who was impacted by Mick’s death."

He said the tragedy had had a "profound effect on all of us at Yorkshire Water, both personally and professionally".

He added: "Whilst we cannot change what happened to Mick, we must ensure this terrible accident leaves a permanent legacy on the business and that we do everything possible to prevent something like this happening again.

"There is nothing more important to us than ensuring that each and every one of our colleagues returns home safely to their families after their day’s work.

"We have already done a significant amount of work to transform how we approach health and safety, but we are committed to constantly working to ensure that we have the best possible systems in place to make sure that nobody else has to experience what Mick’s family have been through.”

An inquest in August last year ruled Mr Jennings' death was an accident.