A FORTH VALLEY company is to face trial over an incident in which a worker suffered serious burns and was killed.

Norbord Europe Limited is accused of exposing the late father-of-two and his colleagues to the risk of serious injury and death through alleged health and safety failings.

The man, George Laird, 64, was fatally injured when staff used a fire hose to remove hot ash from the hot gas duct of a combustion chamber at the plant, in Cowie, according to court documents.

It is alleged that as a result of the workers' self-devised use of the "high-pressure" hose for the job, hot water, steam and ash were "propelled" onto Mr Laird.

He died in the Forth Valley Royal Hospital the next day – on July 14, 2016 – following what prosecutor Sandra Craig said was "a tragic incident".

At a preliminary hearing at Falkirk Sheriff Court, defence counsel Mark Stewart QC tendered pleas of not guilty to two charges under the 1974 Health and Safety at Work etc Act on behalf of Norbord Europe Limited.

The first alleges that Norbord Europe failed to provide a safe system of work for employees removing hot ash from the combustion chamber or inspecting or removing hot ash from the gas duct, as a result of which staff "devised their own system of work and were thereby put at risk of personal injury or death" – in particular the use of the fire hose which propelled hot water, steam and ash onto Mr Laird.

The second alleges the company failed to carry out a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to anyone carrying out such work, and the precautions to be taken.

It alleges that the incident occurred, in the absence of appropriate procedures and precautions, as a consequence.

After listening to legal submissions, Sheriff Keith O'Mahony continued the case to a further preliminary hearing on May 18, 2021, at which dates for trial by jury may be fixed.

Mr Laird had worked for the firm, on Station Road, Cowie, for more than three decades and had been due to retire the month after the tragedy.

The factory, a major employer in the Falkirk, Stirling and Alloa areas for nearly 50 years, was originally known as Caberboard.

It was opened in the 1970s by private traders with German and American finance, and was the first factory in the UK to manufacture the ubiquitous natural wood substitute MDF.