Tata Steel fined over release of ‘toxic vapour’

A steel company has been fined over £900,000 after the release of toxic and flammable substances from its site in Scunthorpe following a prosecution by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

Last week (11 August), Hull Crown Court heard on 17 June 2011 a large quantity of Benzole was released at Tata Steel’s Scunthorpe Steel Works.

Tata Steel has been fined following a case brough by the HSE

The release resulted in a large flammable vapour cloud that exposed five workers to the risk of serious injury of death had the cloud ignited, HSE claimed.

Two of the workers at the site were exposed to the chemical and suffered coughing and breathing difficulties. They were sent to hospital and were discharged the next day.

An investigation by HSE found that Tata Steel had failed to take appropriate safety measures to prevent the release of the toxic and flammable chemical.

Risks

HSE alleged that the company had failed to address the risks which had previously been identified and the incident could have been avoided if the company addressed these concerns.

The site in Scunthorpe is a top tier Control of Major Accidents Hazards site due to the large amounts of highly flammable and toxic chemicals stored on the site.

Tata Steel UK Limited of Millbank, London pleaded guilty to breaching Sections 2 (1) and 3 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. The company was fined £930,000 and ordered to pay costs of £70,000.

Speaking after the hearing HSE inspector Stephen Hargreaves said: “It was extremely fortunate no one was seriously affected by this incident. Had the flammable vapour cloud ignited this could have resulted in multiple fatalities.

“This incident highlights the need for all duty holders to implement and address all concerns and potential risks which have been identified. Tata’s failure to do so in this case put a number of workers at risk of serious harm.”

Commenting following the conclusion of the case on Friday, a Tata Steel spokesman said: “On 28 November 2016, Tata Steel UK Limited pleaded guilty to breaches under s2(1) and s3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. The breaches related to an incident in 2011 that took place at the Scunthorpe steel works which is now owned by British Steel Limited. On 14 July 2017, the company attended the sentencing hearing at Hull Crown Court when judgement was reserved. Today the Judge handed down his judgement fining the company £930,000.

“The health and safety of our employees and contractors is our most important priority. Tata Steel constantly places a great deal of emphasis on creating a strong and ever improving safety culture in the organisation – and into improving our processes and procedures. We want to ensure everyone working on our sites is safe.”