Hull Crown Court has fined a Grimsby company £3 million for breaching health and safety regulations that resulted in employee chemical injuries at work.
In the early hours of 5th March 2010, Paul Doyley (48) was working underneath a large metal tank at the Crystal Pigment chemical plant in Grimsby, when a build-up of Titanium Tetrachloride within the tank came into contact with water and created a violent reaction, rupturing the vessel.
Paul was showered with the corrosive liquid and, as the liquid came into contact with the air, a toxic vapour cloud was created, causing internal injuries to his lungs as he breathed in. Two colleagues who tried to rescue Paul also suffered employee chemical injuries at work.
The toxic vapour cloud expanded rapidly to several metres in height and was blown across the River Humber – closing the shipping lanes for several hours. The incident was eventually brought under control by the Humberside Fire and Rescue Service.
Paul was taken to the Pinderfield´s Hospital in Wakefield, where he received specialist treatment for his employee chemical injuries at work. Tragically he died from his injuries on 18th March. One of rescuers – Ron Ingoldby – survived his injuries, but now has irreversible lung damage.
An investigation into the accident that caused the employee chemical injuries at work was launched by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). HSE inspectors found that Crystal Pigment UK Ltd had deviated from the normal procedures for the management of Titanium Tetrachloride.
The HSE inspectors also found that parts of the plant were poorly designed and that the company had not established robust safety management procedures and systems of work to assess and control risk. Furthermore, there were no measures in place to ensure what procedures were in place were actually followed.
The HSE prosecuted Crystal Pigment UK Ltd for breaching Sections 2 and 3 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. At Hull Crown Court the company pleaded guilty to the charges and was fined £2.4 million for the incident that led to the employee chemical injuries at work, plus a further £600,000 for breaching the Control of Major Accident Hazards Regulations 1999 in a later incident in which fortunately nobody was harmed.