Chemical spill in workplace accident

corrosive substance warning sign

A chemicals firm must pay nearly £65,000 in fines and costs for a breach of safety after chemical tanks spilled aluminium chloride and hydrochloric acid.

Basildon Crown Court heard on Friday how the spill at Industrial Chemicals Limited (ICL) in Grays, Essex, on 11 July 2013 saw around 150 tonnes of the hazardous substances released.

The emergency services were forced to close off an industrial estate and shut several roads. Thankfully no one was injured.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted the company for not managing, checking or maintaining its glass reinforced plastic (GRP) tanks at its Titan Works site on Hogg Lane.

Tank failure

The court was told that a failure of one of the GRP tanks released 66 tonnes of aluminium chloride, which damaged three other tanks made of the same material. It meant another 32 tonnes of the hazardous substance and 52 tonnes of hydrochloric acid was spilled.

The HSE told the court that ICL could not show that the tanks were being used within the time period they were designed to last, or that they had been properly kept and inspected to ensure they were capable or containing their dangerous contents.

HSE officers issued five notices prohibiting the use of the tanks and a further inspection less than a week later saw 10 similar notices served on the firm concerning metal tanks at the site.

After admitting a breach of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, Industrial Chemicals Limited, based at Titan Works on Hogg Lane in Grays was fined £50,000 and told to pay a further £14,231 towards the cost of the prosecution.

Major work accident

Speaking after the court case, HSE Inspector Andrew Saunders described the incident as a major spill of substances that are hazardous to health so it was important to evacuate the area.

He said the firm was lucky that its didn’t come into contact and cause workplace injuries to its staff or members of the public.

Mr Saunders said the spillage was partly caused by the company’s failure to check the upkeep of the tanks. The HSE provides plenty of guidance on how to do this and the measures needed to prevent such an incident happening are simple to follow so there is no excuse for not following them, he said.

If you are involved in an accident at work, contact Accident Advice Helpline on their freephone number – 0800 689 0500 – to see if you could make a compensation claim.

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