TATA Chemicals Europe has been fined almost £350,000 over incidents at its Lostock and Winnington plants in which a worker suffered chemical burns and another fell through a walkway.
Winnington company Capper Group Industrial Contractors was fined £10,000 in relation to one of the incidents, and both companies were sentenced by Chester Crown Court after pleading guilty to health and safety offences.
The incidents took place at the Lostock and Winnington plants in May 2012 and May 2013 respectively, and were investigated by the Health and Safety Executive.
The executive said the Crown Court heard how a Capper Industrial Contractors employee was “engulfed” in hot caustic lime dust and suffered chemical burns at the Lostock plant while operating an open-fronted vehicle to shovel a mound of hot/wet lime which “slumped” into the open cab.
“An investigation into the incident found unsafe work methods meant employees’ exposure to levels of dust was higher than they had to be,” said the executive.
“The second incident occurred at the Winnington plant when an employee of Tata Chemicals Europe was on a walkway eight feet high, when the grating failed and he fell through and became trapped up to his waist in a corroded section of the grating, fortunately without serious injury.
“An investigation into the incident found the company did not have an adequate inspection regime for the walkway, and did not ensure it was maintained in good condition.”
Tata Chemicals Europe Limited, of Mond House, Winnington, was fined £349,850, with costs of £58,392, after pleading guilty to an offence under the 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act and one under the Work at Height Regulations 2005.
Capper Group Industrial Contractors Limited was fined £10,000, with costs of £3,000, after pleading guilty to an offence under the 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act.
HSE inspector Mhairi Duffy said: “Both of these incidents could have been entirely prevented with regular assessment of risks, inspection of work equipment and ensuring correct safety procedures were in place.”
Tata Chemicals Europe pointed this week to what is said were the “significant improvements” in its health and safety performance since the incidents.
“One of the incidents occurred in 2012 when a worker suffered minor chemical burns to his wrist, and one in 2013 when a section of flooring partially failed, causing a worker minor bruising,” said the company.
“Since then, people at all levels of the business have seen significant improvements to safety. This is in addition to every other safety metric heading in the right direction.”
Tata Chemicals Europe managing director Martin Ashcroft said: “We deeply regret what happened and take full responsibility for the incidents. Our guilty plea was entered at the earliest opportunity and we co-operated fully with the HSE throughout the whole process.
“These incidents came during a difficult period for the company, which is now behind us. Our health and safety performance has improved beyond recognition since these incidents as a result of a wide-ranging programme of initiatives.
“I’d like to publically thank our staff for helping us to continue to improve our safety performance since those incidents.”
Phil Davies, the company’s general manager of business services, said: “These incidents were a reminder why safety must be our priority. We are committing record levels of capital expenditure to our plants this year and in the foreseeable future, the majority of which has a direct safety benefit.”
Capper Industrial Contractors Ltd said a worker suffered minor chemical burns to his wrist in the 2012 incident, which occurred “during a period of significant improvement in health and safety management.”
Managing director John Fielding said: “The timing of this incident was highly unfortunate, and I deeply regret this happening on my watch.
“Nobody should get hurt in the course of their work. We had made such big improvements in our management of health and safety, having achieved OHSAS 18001:2007 for the first time in January 2012, our accident statistics at this time were impeccable.
“I took the injured man to Whiston Burns Unit on the day of the incident following emergency treatment at the local infirmary as the ambulances were delayed.
“Within six months of this incident we had in place three new managers, including a highly-experienced and qualified SHE manager, who subsequently ensured no work was taken on without a 100 per cent safety management approach.
“We had days where men would be waiting in our yard for the safety elements of their day’s work to be approved, profits fell dramatically, but the priority has to be ensuring our staff get home safe and well.”
Original story on Northwich Guardian