An Essex company has been fined after four of its chemical storage tanks failed and spilled 150 tonnes of hazardous material. An industrial estate was evacuated and access roads closed as a result of the incident at Industrial Chemicals Limited (ICL) in Grays on 11 July 2013, although thankfully nobody was harmed.
The firm was prosecuted by the HSE after an investigation found it failed to manage, inspect and maintain the tanks in question. The court was told that a glass reinforced plastic (GRP) tank catastrophically failed, releasing its contents of 66 tonnes of aluminium chloride.
This caused chemical spills from a further three tanks that were damaged by the first spillage, releasing a further 32 tonnes of aluminium chloride and 52 tonnes of hydrochloric acid.
Holding such bulk chemicals on-site requires suitable storage, a programme of planned preventative maintenance and suitable controls to prevent a disaster occurring. Unfortunately we see across many workplaces a failure to consider the what ifs when it comes to storage and handling of hazardous substances. This business was lucky that no-one was hurt otherwise the sanctions could have been so much higher.
During HSE’s investigation, ICL was unable to demonstrate that the tanks were being operated within their design lives, or were being suitably inspected and maintained to ensure they were fit for continued use. Five Prohibition Notices were served preventing the use of the remaining GRP tanks on site.
A further inspection was made of the company’s metallic storage vessels by HSE’s mechanical engineering specialists, and a further ten Prohibition Notices were served for the same reasons.
Industrial Chemicals Limited, of Grays, was fined £50,000 and ordered to pay £14,231 in costs after pleading guilty to a single breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
If you store hazardous substances in bulk on your sites are you sure that your controls could not fail and have you considered the what ifs?