A pet food manufacturer has been sentenced after exposing its employees to chlorine gas during cleaning of equipment at its plant in Nottinghamshire. The court heard that employees were further exposed to hydrogen sulphide fumes at the same premises whilst clearing a blockage from another piece of equipment.
Sarval Limited, which produces animal feed ingredients from by-products, was in court to hear the prosecution for the HSE tell the court how one employee was overcome by hydrogen sulphide fumes produced by decomposing feathers as he cleared a blockage from a hydrolyser.
The company had failed to provide employees with adequate training and a safe system of work for clearing blockages.
A more recent event on the 15 May 2015 involved an incident that saw a release of chlorine gas from a scrubber during a routine cleaning operation when hydrochloric acid was added to a sump containing sodium hypochlorite. Again, employees involved in the cleaning operation had not received the necessary training and instruction.
Both incidents occurred at the company’s plant in Stoke Bardolph, Nottinghamshire.
Sarval Limited of Ings Road, Doncaster, South Yorkshire pleaded guilty and was fined £40,000 with £19,550 costs.
The HSE Inspector on the case commented that the company’s failure to give adequate consideration to the risk of exposure to toxic gases produced by its work activity put employees at significant risk and it was only by good fortune that there was no loss of life.
It is frightening how many businesses seem to overlook risks that involve hazardous substances; whether from what they use or those created as a by-product of their operations. Had a thorough COSHH assessment been completed by a competent person then these risks would have been identified and staff could have been trained.
At MESH we provide many businesses with competent COSHH support and stress the importance of training employees about hazardous substances and the precautions to be taken.