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International chemical firm prosecuted over multiple incidents

15-04-2013

The corroded walkway which gave way when a worker stepped onto it

An international chemical firm has been fined more than £100,000 after workers were put in danger in three separate incidents at its Cheshire factory.

One employee at Tata Chemicals Europe Limited’s plant in Northwich suffered severe burns to his right foot which removed a layer of skin and required 18 months of treatment.

Another worker was injured when the metal grating he was walking on gave way five floors up, and employees were also put at risk when high levels of carbon monoxide were released into the former Brunner Mond plant.

Tata Chemicals was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) following an investigation into the incidents at the Winnington Lane site, all of which occurred during 2010.

On 10 April, Chester Crown Court was told that the first incident happened on 29 January 2010 when a worker was trying to reach a pump to restart it when his right foot went through a missing part of the grating.

He was exposed to a toxic liquid at a temperature of approximately 95 degrees Celsius when his foot entered the sump below, which is used to collect overflowing chemicals.

The second incident occurred six months later, on 25 July 2010, when a dangerous gas was released, resulting in high levels of carbon monoxide being present in the area of the plant where employees were working.

An investigation into the incident found employees had not been given sufficient practical training for the work activity that caused the gas leak, and the emergency procedures at the plant were inadequate.

The final incident took place on 21 November 2010 when part of the gantry a worker was walking along gave way as the metal grating under his feet had become badly corroded. He escaped with minor injuries after landing on a scaffolding board on the walkway below.

When a HSE inspector visited the factory, she discovered the company had failed to report another part of the grating on the same walkway collapsing two days before the incident on 21 November.

Tata Chemicals Europe Ltd., which is part of the global Tata group, pleaded guilty to four breaches of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 by failing to ensure the safety of workers.

The company also admitted two breaches of the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995 after it failed to report the two walkway collapses in November 2010 as soon as possible, despite this being a legal requirement.

Tata Chemicals was fined a total of £100,750 for all six offences and ordered to pay £71,082 in prosecution costs.

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