Chemical exposure ‘nearly killed worker’

Multiple safety and environmental breaches which caused major health problems to workers have cost a pair of pharmaceutical firms a total of £120,000 in fines.

Archimica Chemicals Limited, of Prince William Avenue in Deeside, Flintshire, pleaded guilty at Mold Crown Court to four breaches of the Health and Safety at Work Act.

Its trading partner, Euticals Ltd, of the same address, admitted four breaches for failing to comply with two Health and Safety Executive (HSE) improvement notices.

It also admitted two breaches of the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations as part of a Natural Resources Wales prosecution heard at the same time. The court heard the incidents, leading to severe industrial injuries, happened at their factory in Sandycroft between November 2011 and November 2012.

Highly toxic

In July last year an agency worker almost died after being exposed to methyl iodide – a highly toxic chemical that can affect the central nervous system – while training, the court heard.

An HSE investigation found he had been given poorly-fitting respiratory protection despite methyl iodide levels being known to exceed workplace exposure limits in many areas.

He was hospitalised for three months after suffering a pulmonary embolism. He was
left prone to seizures, at high risk of deep vein thrombosis and with permanently impaired speech, memory and mobility.

In November 2011, prosecutors said poorly written procedures failed to identify when a safety valve should be open, resulting in the chemical being released into the atmosphere.

Three months later, the court heard, an agency worker was exposed to it after being given inadequate breathing protection. The man, who spent three weeks in hospital with iodine poisoning, was left with depression, headaches and speech difficulties.

Further incidents

In June and July last year inadequate decontamination training led to another worker being exposed to methyl iodide three times.

He suffered a rash and blisters on his ankles and wrist. He later returned to work but developed the same symptoms before being diagnosed with occupational dermatitis, the court was told.

Archimica Ltd was fined a total of £80,000. Euticals Ltd was fined £20,000 for the health and safety breaches and £20,000 for the environmental breaches.

The site is now being decommissioned. Both firms are in liquidation.

Accident Advice Helpline offers to talk to people who’ve had an accident at work to see if they may be able to make a claim. To discuss your potential claim with a member of their expert team dial 0800 689 0500 now.

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