Aesica has been fined £100,000 ($160,000) after a worker at its Cramlington facility was sprayed with seven litres of bromine due to faulty pipework.
The accident happened in February 2012 at Aesica’s API facility in Northumberland, UK, and last week the firm was fined £100,000 and ordered to pay £7,803 after pleading guilty to breaching Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
“This was an isolated incident during which only a small amount of bromine was released and was an unfortunate result of a mechanical failure of a pipework fitting at the site,” said Steve Barker, a spokesperson from the Cramlington facility, in a statement sent to this publication.
“At the time of the incident our practiced emergency procedures were implemented and the leak was immediately isolated and contained.”
He continued: “We accept the Court’s ruling and have already implemented stringent measures to ensure this remains an isolated incident in what is a site with an exceptional safety record, spanning over 30-years of bromine use.”
The incident resulted from a bromine bulk storage tank that had been taken out of service in 2007, leaving pipework and some valves suspended from a set of flexible bellows which were not intended to be weight-bearing, said independent workplace regulatory body the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) who led the prosecution against Aesica.
The bellows failed when the worker subsequently removed attached cables, releasing the bromine over him, leading to 48 hours in hospital in a critical condition due after inhaling the substance, which also caused severe skin burns and damage to an eye.
Bolts on the bellows were found to be corroded when inspected by the HSE.
“This was a serious incident with potentially fatal consequences which was readily preventable,” said HSE Inspector Graham Watson. “All employers and particularly those handling dangerous chemicals must not assume a lack of previous incidents means risks are adequately controlled.”
Barker said Aesica “has a stringent commitment to the highest standards of safety and robust regulatory processes,” and it has “reaffirmed [its] commitment to maintain an exceptional safety record at [its] facilities,” following the incident.
“We continue to evaluate our procedures and working practices to ensure we do everything within our power to prevent issues occurring in the future,” he said.