Cleanzine: your weekly cleaning and hygiene industry newsletter 23rd March 2023 Issue no. 1057
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Chemicals company fined after releasing cloud of chlorine gas into factory
A chemicals company has been fined after releasing a cloud of toxic chlorine gas that spread through its factory, yard and surrounding area resulting in staff needing hospital treatment and significant damage to the factory.
In June 2019, Wiltshire company GEA Farm Technologies (UK) mistakenly mixed an Intermediate Bulk Container containing approximately 700Kg of concentrated sulphuric acid into a mixing vessel which already contained 1,600 litres of sodium hypochlorite solution.
The chemicals reacted releasing a large cloud of toxic chlorine gas, which CCTV footage showed as it permeated the factory and surrounding area. There was no clear evacuation plan for workers caught on-site and several were taken to hospital with breathing difficulties - although fortunately no one suffered long-term effects.
A Health & Safety Executive investigation found that the incident happened because a dedicated mixing plant had not been brought back into service after maintenance work, and the company had failed to introduce effective records management for the temporary manual system.
GEA Farm Technologies (UK), based in Warminster, Wiltshire, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health & Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and was fined £40,000 and ordered to pay costs of £22,000.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector, Malcolm Whyatt, said: "In this case several workers were put at risk from a cloud of chlorine gas which drifted uncontrolled through their workplace.
"The company had previously designed its system to eliminate the possibility of human error; by reverting to a manual process it created a situation where mixing incompatible chemicals was possible. Chlorine can have severe health effects at very low levels, and it was fortunate that no-one was more seriously injured."
General image of chlorine gas courtesy of www.aminoapps.com
13th October 2022