A COMPANY has been fined £3-million after its “high level of dereliction of duty” led to the death of a workman following a “massive explosion”.
The incident at Cristal, northern Lincolnshire, was an “utter disgrace” and a “comprehensively shameful episode” caused by “serious and enduring safety failures”.
It was an “enduring and extremely worrying situation” and it caused a “truly lamentable state of affairs” that put the public and other workers at risk, a court heard.
The explosion at a chemical plant was like a “virtual bomb waiting to be activated”.
Things “went critically wrong” when the “highly toxic” contents of a large tank exploded and were “violently showered” into the area.
Cristal Pigment UK Ltd, of Laporte Road, Stallingborough, was also ordered to pay £37,868 costs.
It admitted failing to ensure the health, safety and welfare of employees, including Paul Doyley and Ronald Ingoldby, who were exposed to a toxic vapour cloud on March 5, 2010.
It also admitted failing to ensure that members of the public were not exposed to risks when the toxic cloud crossed a public footpath between the site boundary and the River Humber.
The company also admitted failing to take all measures necessary to prevent a major accident, resulting in the release of toxic and corrosive gas, during a second incident involving cleaning a tank on July 27,
The prosecution was brought by the Health and Safety Executive.
Judge Jeremy Richardson QC told Hull Crown Court: “These three crimes – and this was criminal activity – reveal an enduring and worrying situation which came to a head during 2010 and 2011.”
There was a “high level of dereliction of duty” by the company and this “exposed its employees and the general public to real dangers of chemical poisoning”.
It was a “truly lamentable state of affairs” and the events were an “utter disgrace”.
He added: “This is a comprehensively shameful episode in the history of the defendant company.”
There were “serious and enduring safety failures” and it was “pure chance and a mercy” that the situation facing the company was not worse.
The second incident revealed a “catalogue of failures and inadequacies” and the cleaning of a vessel was “astonishingly cavalier” and like something from a “rag and bone yard”.
The cleaning was “incompetently handled from beginning to end” and the “almost amateur” planning that was “almost breathtaking”.
Judge Richardson said: “This is a very bad case of its kind.”
David Brooke, prosecuting, told an earlier hearing at Grimsby Crown Court that Mr Doyley, 48, was working underneath a large metal tank at the chemical plant.
It ruptured during a “massive explosion” in the vessel and the “highly toxic” contents, including the gas, titanium tetrachloride, were “violently showered” into the surrounding area.
Mr Doyley suffered chemical burning and acute respiratory problems. He was taken to hospital but his injuries were so severe that he died on March 18, 2010.
Mr Ingoldby suffered chemical injuries to his lungs and airways and was in hospital until March 22. He continued to suffer difficulties.
There was a “dense white foam” and a “denser white cloud pouring from this area” to about 30m into the air.
“It was some time before the gases were cut off,” said Mr Brooke.
“The site posed a particularly dangerous risk because of the presence of this dangerous gas.
“This plant was surrounded by other plants. There was a significant risk to shipping in that part of the Humber.
“There was a serious risk to members of the public who might have been walking on the footpath.
“There was a risk to the public. The whole thing happened over the course of 24 hours. It was not a sudden matter.”
Other nearby companies were not alerted to the “domino” effect risk.
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