Chemical manufacturer CalaChem is facing a £560,000 (about $782,000) fine following a 2016 incident at its Grangemouth, Scotland plant that injured an employee, the UK’s occupational safety regulator, The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) recently announced.
The Falkirk Sheriff Court heard that the incident occurred on March 4, 2016 during a cleaning process that involved filling a chemical powder charging chute connected to a reaction vessel with boiling water.
Water was boiled in the powder charging chute overnight. On the next day the worker attempted to discharge the boiling water into the vessel, but scalding water erupted out of the chute when a valve was opened because the vessel had become pressurized with nitrogen gas, according to the agency. The worker was severely scalded by the water.
HSE inspectors determined that a safe cleaning process involving cold water had changed over time.
“The process had developed into the practice of overnight boiling of water in the charge chute, while simultaneously pressurizing the reaction vessel below as part of a recirculating cleaning cycle,” the regulator wrote in a release. “The incremental changes to the cleaning process were not subject to a review of the company’s risk assessment and the danger of pressurizing a vessel below a chute was not recognized, consequently no control measures were put in place.”
Since the incident, CalaChem has halted the use of filling the powder charge chute with boiling water. The firm also risk assessed processes used to clean the plant to create safer work procedures.
The company pleaded guilty to violating Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
“Those in control of working processes have a responsibility to assess the associated risks. If changes are made, which increases the level of risk, those in control of the workplace have a duty to reduce the risk back down to as low a level as reasonably practicable,” HSE inspector Gerald McCulloch said in a statement. “If the decision to boil the water in the chute instead of hosing it down with a cold water had been the subject of a risk assessment, the danger from the pressurized vessel below would have been identified prior to the incident. This would have prevented the employee severe injury and permanent disfigurement.”
CalaChem offers contract manufacturing, environmental, and property and site services to the UK chemical industry.