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Essex company in court after massive chemical spill

04 August 2014

An Essex company has been fined after four of its chemical storage tanks failed and spilled 150 tonnes of hazardous material.

An industrial estate was evacuated and access roads closed as a result of the incident at Industrial Chemicals Limited (ICL) in Grays on 11 July 2013, although thankfully nobody was harmed.

The firm was prosecuted on the 1st August by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after an investigation found it failed to manage, inspect and maintain the tanks in question.

Basildon Crown Court heard the incident occurred at Titan Works on Hogg Lane when a glass reinforced plastic (GRP) tank catastrophically failed, releasing its contents of 66 tonnes of aluminium chloride.

This caused chemical spills from a further three tanks that were damaged by the first spillage, releasing a further 32 tonnes of aluminium chloride and 52 tonnes of hydrochloric acid.

During HSE’s investigation, ICL was unable to demonstrate that the tanks were being operated within their design lives, or were being suitably inspected and maintained to ensure they were fit for continued use. Five Prohibition Notices were served preventing the use of the remaining GRP tanks on site.

On 16 July 2013, a further inspection was made of the company’s metallic storage vessels by HSE’s mechanical engineering specialists, and a further ten Prohibition Notices were served for the same reasons.

Industrial Chemicals Limited, of Titan Works, Hogg Lane, Grays, was fined £50,000 and ordered to pay £14,231 in costs after pleading guilty to a single breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

After the hearing, HSE Inspector Andrew Saunders said:

"This was a major spill of highly hazardous material that caused the evacuation of an industrial estate and the closure of roads in the surrounding area. Fortunately in this case no employees or members of the public were injured.

"Industrial Chemical Ltd’s failure to manage, inspect and maintain their GRP tanks contributed to this spillage. The measures needed to prevent this kind of incident are straightforward and guidance is freely available from HSE. There is no excuse for companies storing hazardous materials not to follow this guidance.”

For more information about working with chemicals, visit www.hse.gov.uk/chemicals/index.htm