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Company Fined for Fatal Exposure to Toxic Vapour at Work

A chemical company in Grimsby has been fined £3 million for health and safety breaches that led to an employee´s fatal exposure to toxic vapour at work.

Paul Doyley (48) was working beneath a tank containing Titanium Tetrachloride at the Crystal Pigment UK Ltd chemical plant in Grimsby on 5th March 2010, when the chemical came into contact with water and created a chemical reaction. The force of the reaction ruptured the tank, and Paul was showered with corrosive liquid.

Two colleagues rushed to Paul´s assistance but, as the liquid came into contact with air, a further chemical reaction created a cloud of toxic vapour. Paul and one of his rescuers – Ron Ingoldby – were blanketed by the rapidly increasing toxic vapour cloud, both suffering severe lung damage. The second rescuer – Steve Russell – suffered chemical burns.

The toxic vapour cloud continued to expand and blew from the chemical plant across the River Humber – closing shipping lanes in the process. The Humberside Fire and Rescue Service was summoned, and the incident was brought under control after several hours – avoiding a potentially serious incident close to a heavily populated residential area.

Paul was taken to Wakefield´s Pinderfield Hospital, where he received specialist treatment for his chemical burns and exposure to toxic vapour at work. Tragically Paul died from his injuries two weeks later. Ron Ingoldby, the first of his colleagues to come to his aid, has suffered irreversible lung damage and a likely shortening of his life expectancy.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) launched an investigation into the fatal exposure to toxic vapour at work incident and found that Crystal Pigment UK Ltd had deviated from the normal procedures for the safe management of Titanium Tetrachloride. Inspectors also identified a lack of safety procedures and systems of work to assess and control risk.

The HSE prosecuted Crystal Pigment UK Ltd for breaches of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the Control of Major Accident Hazards Regulations 1999 following a second Titanium Tetrachloride incident in July 2011 in which nobody was injured. The company pleaded guilty to the charges, and a sentencing hearing took place at Hull Crown Court earlier this week.

At the hearing, the court issued fines totalling £3 million for the failures in health and safety that resulted in a fatal exposure to toxic vapour at work. The court also ordered Crystal Pigment UK Ltd to pay £37,868 for the costs associated with bringing the prosecution.