A chemical company has been fined £160,000 after an explosion at a factory blew a vessel lid through the roof and injured a worker.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted Catalloy Ltd following the incident at its plant on Moss Bank Road in Widnes on 25 November 2011.
The company produces metal catalysts used by the pharmaceutical and petrochemical industries.
A modification had been made to one of its reactors and the explosion occurred on the first day of production following the modification.
The blast blew the lid and other equipment through the corrugated panels on the roof of the factory and into a neighbouring car park. A worker also suffered cuts to his hand and back.
The HSE investigation found the firm had fitted a new seal on the reactor to prevent air getting in, but had not properly considered the risks of the increased pressure inside the equipment during the production process.
On Thursday, September 24 2015 at Warrington Crown Court, Catalloy Ltd pleaded guilty to two breaches of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 by failing to ensure the safety of workers.
Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 states:
It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees.
Section 3(1) states:
It shall be the duty of every employer to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in his employment who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety.
The company was fined £80,000 and ordered to pay £80,000 in prosecution costs.
After the hearing, HSE Inspector Mhairi Duffy said:
“Catalloy deals with potentially dangerous substances every day – and so it’s vital nothing is left to chance when it comes to the safety of its workers.
“The company should have carefully considered the risks of sealing the reactor – but instead it continued with the production process and there was a major hydrogen explosion as a result.
“Luckily, only one worker suffered minor injuries in the blast – but the consequences could easily have been fatal.”
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