A Coca Cola factory worker who had caustic acid sprayed in his eyes and feared he was blinded when a pipe burst on the factory floor has received compensation.

John Houghton, 56, from Huddersfield, thought he would be left blind after a colleague accidently stepped on a pipe full of a hot caustic cleaning substance used to clean the lines of a machine in the process of making Coke. A defective clamp securing the pipe in place gave way causing it to explode into his face.

The process technician at Coca Cola, in Wakefield, was rushed to hospital and his eyes were rinsed out but he spent three days unable to see and worrying about what his future would hold. Fortunately once the swelling reduced he regained his full eyesight though he has been left with burn injuries to his left shoulder and upper left leg which has left scarring.

Mr Houghton had to take four weeks off work as he recovered from his injuries.

Thompsons Solicitors made claim for compensation

After the accident he contacted his trade union, Unite the Union, for advice, who instructed its lawyers Thompsons Solicitors to investigate a claim for compensation.

Investigations by Thompsons revealed Coca Cola had failed to carry out regular inspections on the pipe and its fittings.

Coca Cola admitted liability and settled the claim out of court for almost £6,000.

Mr Houghton said: “I was terrified I would never be able to see again. You hear about people being blinded by caustic acid and that was my worst fear. Fortunately the hospital was fantastic and was able to treat me quickly and my sight has recovered.

“I wouldn’t want anyone else to go through what I went through and I hope my employers have learnt from this accident.”

Defective pipe was allowed to remain in use

Karen Reay from Unite the Union added: “Caustic cleaning solution can cause serious acid burns when in contact with skin and it must have been a very frightening experience for Mr Houghton who was just getting on with his job. Coca Cola as a multi-national company should know better than to allow inspections on equipment to lapse in this manner.”

Keely Goldup from Thompsons Solicitors said: “Coca Cola failed to run a safe workplace and allowed a defective pipe to remain in use. Mr Houghton suffered significant and painful injuries but also went through the trauma of thinking that he might lose his sight. He is very fortunate that he didn’t.”