Tata Steel has been told to pay £1m after exposing five people to toxic substances at Scunthorpe Steel Works back in 2011.
A Health and Safety (HSE) investigation found Tata had failed to take appropriate safety measures, while Tata was fined £930,000 and ordered to pay costs of £70,000 at Hull Crown Court today, after previously admitting to breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
A large quantity of Benzole was released at an open site glass in Tata Steel's Scunthorpe Steel Works in June 2011, which resulted in a flammable vapour cloud exposing five workers to the risk of serious injury of death had the cloud ignited.
The workplace health regulator said two of the workers were exposed to the chemical and suffered coughing and breathing difficulties. They were sent to hospital and discharged the next day.
The HSE investigation found Tata Steel failed to take the appropriate safety measures to prevent the release of the toxic and flammable chemical.
It also noted that the firm failed to address the risks which had previously been identified and that the incident could have been avoided altogether had the firm addressed the concerns.
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.
A Tata Steel spokesman said:
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.
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.