1.2m fine for chemical company following explosion
Published: 08 Aug 2017

Industrial Chemicals Limited has been fined £1.2m following an explosion that left two people injured.

Only two people suffered minor injuries following the blast, which happened during the operation of the hydrochloric acid (HCI) burner at its West Thurrock site on 26 September 2013. One worker suffered a grazed knee from a breeze block that had become dislodged from the control room wall while the other suffered a minor caustic burn caused by a drip from the plant in the minutes following the explosion.

Chelmsford Crown Court heard that the HCI burner was newly installed and had only been used a handful of times prior to the explosion. The court also heard that the plant site had been under construction for several months and was undergoing commissioning.

The explosion destroyed a tank and displaced a scrubber column upwards and at an angle.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), acting as part of the COMAH competent authority, found that in an attempt to address the risks from chlorine, the chemical company had routed the vent gas, containing mostly hydrogen, through the plant's emergency scrubber where it was able to come into contact with oxygen or chlorine which found an ignition source and then exploded.

Speaking after the hearing the HSE inspector stated that "the investigation has shown that the potential for an explosive atmosphere had not been identified during the design, construction or commissioning of the plant." The inspector went on to say that "this incident could have been avoided if simple checks had been carried out" and reiterated that the "HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those that fall below the required standard."

The company pleaded guilty to a breach of the Control of Major Accident Hazards Regulations SI 1999/743 and was fined £1.2 million and ordered to pay costs of £35,854.

For more information, see the:

  • Control of Major Accident Hazards Regulations SI 2015/483.