Chemical producer receives six-figure fine after worker’s burn injury

  • Disciplinary
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Peninsula Team, Peninsula Team

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Worker’s chemical burn injury incurs six-figure fine for INEOS

Chemical producer INEOS has been fined £400,000 following an incident where an employee sustained serious chemical burns at work

On 25 November 2019, the employee was clearing a sump full of caustic solution on INEOS’ Grangemouth, Scotland site. The sump needed to be emptied, having reached its high-level design threshold the day before. The employee, 47, prepared by laying out various hoses to empty the sump, then entered the sump area.

No sooner had he entered the area, when the grating collapsed under his weight and his right leg fell inside. It was immediately saturated with caustic solution and remained there for three seconds, before he pulled himself out of the sump. The employee was later treated at St John’s Hospital in Livingston.

His right leg was permanently scarred, and the man was in pain for four weeks after the incident. He returned to work in December of the same year.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigated the incident, discovering that INEOS had no risk assessment for emptying the sump, and no safe system of work. The grating was unsecured and there were no barriers to prevent anyone falling into the sump.

INEOS Chemicals Grangemouth Limited pleaded guilty to breaches of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 under Section 2(1) and Section 33(1)(a). The company was fined £400,000 at Falkirk Sheriff Court on 8 March 2024.

Speaking after the sentencing, HSE Inspector Lindsey Stein said:

“The duties on employers to undertake a suitable and sufficient assessment of risks and to provide a safe system of work are absolute within health and safety legislation and well understood. The dangerous properties of caustic are widely known and this incident could so easily have been avoided with the implementation of straightforward control measures identified through assessment.”

Debbie Carroll, who leads on health and safety investigations for the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS), also commented:

“This accident could have been avoided had the risks been recognised and appropriate systems of work put in place in ensuring workers were protected from harm when working in this area.

“Ineos Chemicals Grangemouth Limited’s failure to assess the risks posed resulted in the severe injury and permanent disfigurement of one of their workers.

“This prosecution should remind duty holders that a failure to manage and implement effective measures can have serious consequences and they will be held accountable for this failure.”

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