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A pharmaceutical company based in the North East of England has received a fine after failed safety mechanisms saw a worker seriously injured.

Aesica Pharmaceuticals was fined £100,000 and ordered to pay court costs of nearly £8,000 after admitting to breaching Health and Safety at Work directives.

The incident, which happened on February 7 last year, saw an employee covered in seven litres of bromine. While it hasn’t been stated whether or not the individual was wearing the correct person protective equipment (PPE), the worker was sprayed with the chemical whilst removing cables and pipework at an industrial estate in Northumberland.

Whilst being decommissioned, bellows controlling the release of bromine to another, still operational tank, failed. This released the bromine into the older tank, spraying the worker.

For the first 48 hours after the incident, the employee was left fighting for his life. He had internal damage caused by the corrosive, suffered significant eye damage and had severe burns to his skin.

The employee spent four weeks in hospital, is still being treated and is yet to return to work.

In its investigation, the Health and Safety Executive found badly corroded bolts and poorly supported pipework. This all led to the contamination and ultimate failure of the equipment.

Talking after the fine was handed down, Graham Watson, a HSE Inspector, said:

"All employers and particularly those handling dangerous chemicals must not assume a lack of previous incidents means risks are adequately controlled. Measures must be in place to ensure, through robust audit and review that this is due to effective management and not just good fortune.”

Watson went on to say that ensuring integrity of mechanics through assessment, maintenance and inspection was essential at every plant in the UK.

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