Chemical company fined following weedkiller leak
Syngenta, a chemical company based in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, has been fined £200,000 following an incident at the site resulting in weedkiller being released by accident.
On 12th December, 2014, paraquat, a toxic substance, was leaked from an isotanker while being filled. A valve had been opened accidentally by an employee of the firm, Daniel Morris, who had not been aware at that time that the dry disconnect coupling was faulty.
Leeds Crown Court was told that one of the other valves on the tanker had failed to be opened, which caused a buildup of pressure on the contents. A handle was moved by Morris, which immediately led to the contents of the tanker being released, spraying him in the process.
The paraquat dichloride sprayed his upper body and face. However, Morris received limited protection as he was wearing safety goggles and did not have his mouth open at the time of the incident. If ingested, even a small amount could have been fatal, according to the prosecutor, Kevin Slack. An emergency drench shower was located close by, which Morris ran to immediately after the chemical leak.
The company was also ordered to pay costs of £13,041, while Judge David Hatton QC said that he believed that the company, which had a previously unblemished safety record, was responsible. The Judge added that the outcome could have easily been much worse, and there had been failings identifying potential risks and checking the equipment. This highlights the necessity of workers wearing PPE whenever working with hazardous substances.