Fine imposed for uncontrolled release of toxic substances

Published:  14 August, 2017

A steel company has been fined GBP930,000 (US$1.2 million) after the release of toxic and flammable substances from its site in Scunthorpe, England.

A large quantity of Benzole was released on 17 June 2011 at an open site in Tata Steel’s Scunthorpe Steel Works, around 120km east of Manchester. The release resulted in a large flammable vapour cloud that exposed five workers to the risk of serious injury of death had the cloud ignited. Two of the workers received medical treatment after suffering coughing and breathing difficulties.

The investigation by the Health and Safety Executive found Tata Steel had failed to take the appropriate safety measures to prevent the release of the toxic and flammable chemical. It was found the company had failed to address previously identified risks and that the incident could have been entirely avoided if the company had addressed these concerns.

The site in Scunthorpe is a top tier Control of Major Accidents Hazards site due to the large amounts of highly flammable and toxic chemicals stored on the site.

Tata Steel UK Limited of Millbank, London pleaded guilty to breaching Sections 2 (1) and 3 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974; on 11 August it was fined GBP930,000 (US$1.2 million) and ordered to pay costs of GBP70,000 (US$90,000).

Speaking after the hearing HSE inspector Stephen Hargreaves commented: “It was extremely fortunate no one was seriously affected by this incident. Had the flammable vapour cloud ignited this could have resulted in multiple fatalities.

“This incident highlights the need for all duty holders to implement and address all concerns and potential risks which have been identified. Tata’s failure to do so in this case put a number of workers at risk of serious harm.”

In April 2016 the Scunthorpe works was sold by Tata to Greybull Capital for a nominal sum of £1 and renamed British Steel Ltd.

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