A pharmaceutical firm has been ordered to pay out more than £107,000 after an employee was sprayed by a toxic chemical in an accident at work.
The man spent 48 hours in intensive care after he was doused with seven litres of bromine at Aesica Pharmaceuticals’ site in Cramlington, Northumberland.
Safety failings caused work accident
Aesica Pharmaceuticals was prosecuted after the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the worker’s injuries had been caused by a serious safety breach at the site.
Newcastle Crown Court heard how the employee was removing cables from a valve when the industrial accident happened at the Windmill Industrial Estate on February 7 last year.
He was working on pipes connected to a bromine bulk storage tank which had been taken out of service in 2007.
Sections of the connecting pipework had been removed ahead of an insurance inspection, but the rest was left suspended from a set of flexible bellows which were not designed to bear weight.
When the worker removed the cables, the bellows failed and he was sprayed with bromine. He spent 48 hours in a critical condition in hospital after inhaling the corrosive substance.
The employee also suffered severe skin burns and damage to one eye. He has not yet returned to work as he is still receiving treatment for his injuries.
Warning over hazardous chemicals
An HSE investigation found that the bolts on the bellows were corroded, making them likely to rupture under any stress.
Aesica Pharmaceuticals Ltd, Q5, Quorum Business Park, Newcastle, was fined £100,000 and ordered to pay £7,803 after pleading guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
HSE Inspector Graham Watson said: “Maintaining the mechanical integrity of process plant and pipework is essential to preventing the loss of hazardous chemicals.
“Any changes to plant must be carefully assessed to ensure it does not increase the risk of failure. Measures must be in place through an on-going programme of maintenance and inspection to ensure the continued integrity of the plant according to risk.”
Source: Health and Safety Executive