It always amazes me how often it is that businesses fail to apply learning when things go wrong in the workplace. In the case of Tata Chemicals it cost them £171,800 in court.
For Tata Chemicals, 2010 was a bad year at their plant in Cheshire where the three separate incidents occurred. The first was when a worker was trying to get to a pump to restart it and his right foot went through a piece of missing grating. His foot went into a sump that contained toxic substances at a temperature around 95 degrees C. He suffered serious burns and had to undergo treatment for 18 months.
The second was when a dangerous gas was released inside the factory which resulted in workers being exposed to high levels of carbon monoxide in part of the plant.
The third incident was when a worker fell through a metal gantry and landed on a scaffold board below; luckily he was not badly hurt. It happened because the metal gantry had become badly corroded and gave way when he stepped on it.
The HSE investigations found that the company procedures were inadequate and that they had failed to apply previous learning (e.g. another part of the gantry had previously collapsed).
These appear to have been pretty basic errors and to me show that the company had very weak health & safety systems and clearly did not undertake thorough risk assessments. Only last week when delivering training I stressed (to the group) the importance of regularly reviewing risk assessments and applying knowledge learnt within the business. Had Tata Chemicals done this diligently then at least one incident could have been avoided.
I know we don’t have a crystal ball to predict what might happen in our businesses but a fundamental failure to maintain a plant in a safe working condition is surely just asking for trouble. In court Tata Chemicals Europe received fines of £100k and were ordered to pay costs of £71k, in my book that’s a very expensive mistake that could have easily been avoided don’t you think?