Chemical processing company, Airedale Chemical Company Ltd, has been fined after people at a neighbouring company were exposed to Nitric acid fumes.
On 29 April 2014, employees from Joda Freight were exposed to the chemical fumes during transfer of the substance from a road tanker into a storage vessel. The fumes escaped through a vent situated on the roof of the Airedale building that housed the nitric acid storage tank.
Towards the end of the transfer the driver was alerted by an Airedale employee that there were complaints about fumes from a neighbouring site. At this time the driver was venting the road tanker through the system.
Bradford and Keighley Magistrates’ Court heard how an employee in the Joda Freight workshop was working outside, immediately below the nitric acid vent pipe, and was hospitalised the day after the incident with nitric acid exposure.
Airedale Chemical Company Limited have been fined £12,000 with costs of £3,318 for the incident.
The HSE inspector on the case commented that Airedale Chemical Company Ltd is a lower tier site under the Control of Major Accident Hazards Regulations by virtue of storage and use of hazardous chemicals including nitric acid. She continued that there is a high level of public concern about such sites and they should adequately control the risks that arise from their operations.
Clearly on this occasion the failed to control the risks to the required control standards for the safe transfer of corrosive nitric acid and this failure resulted in people being affected offsite.
It is vitally important that where any business has hazardous chemical processes that there are suitable controls in place; if these are extraction ventilation systems then these need to be routinely inspected. Whatever control system is in place it’s important that there are systems in place to identify when the system fails or are not being used as they should be.
The starting point requires that suitable COSHH assessments are completed by competent persons who understand the risks.