Workers escape serious injury following chemical explosion
Two workers received minor injuries following an explosion at the premises of Essex-based Industrial Chemicals Ltd.
The incident occurred in September 2013 at the West Thurrock site while the hydrochloric acid burner was being used. Chelmsford Crown Court was told that the burner had only recently been installed and had been used on just a small number of occasions. At the time of the explosion, the plant site was in the process of being commissioned, and had spent several months under construction.
Two workers were injured during the blast; one received a caustic burn which had been caused by a leak in the aftermath of the blast, while a breeze block which had come loose from the control room wall had grazed the other worker's knee.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) carried out an investigation, acting as part of the Competent Authority under the Control of Major Accidents Hazards (COMAH). HSE found that while the company had addressed risks presented by chlorine, it had rerouted the vent gas, which mainly contained hydrogen, making it possible to come into contact with either chlorine or oxygen. This was what created the explosion.
The firm was fined £1.2m and ordered to pay costs of £35,854. According to an inspector from HSE, the incident could have been avoided if checks carried out during the design and construction of the plant had identified the possibility of an explosive atmosphere.
The company was served with a COMAH Prohibition Notice. The use of PPE and other measures need to be in place for all workers who may come into contact with hazardous materials.