THE ABSENCE of adequate lighting in part of a chemical plant was a factor in a worker receiving ‘life changing’ sulphuric acid burns.
AGC Chemicals Europe – based in Lancashire, England – was fined £300,000 over the incident in which process operator David Crellan was soaked in 4,000 litres of acid in a ‘pitch black’ part of the site.
Preston Crown Court heard how Crellan suffered ‘horrific leg injuries’ when the 96 per cent strength acid gushed from a faulty pipe.
Concerns about lighting in that part of the site at Thornton – which manufactures the polymer PTFE for non-stick pans and roofing – had been raised.
Defending the company, lawyer Peter Smith told the court: ‘We accept the pipework was poor, we accept we should have acted sooner, we accept there was poor lighting.’
Smith said the company had an overall good safety record, and had co-operated fully with the probe by the Health and Safety Executive.
Summing up, Judge Andrew Woolman said: ‘Overall, it is clear that these were serious failures by AGC. AGC’s own memo showed that they knew that this was a very poor installation generally.
‘The serious risks of a failure are obvious, and the engineers seem to have given this problem far too low a priority.’
He said there had been a systemic failure in dealing with this particular risk.
Crellan needed surgery after the incident on August 23, 2014, has difficulty walking and suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.
AGC Chemical Europe, which must also pay £11,275.84 costs, admitted failing to ensure the health and safety of its employees working around harmful substances.