Tata Steel UK Limited fined for uncontrolled release of toxic substances

In June 2011, a large quantity of Benzole, a coal-tar product consisting mainly of benzene and toluene, was released at an open site glass in Tata Steel’s Scunthorpe Steel Works. 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. Two of the workers 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 the HSE found Tata Steel failed to take the appropriate safety measures to prevent the release of the toxic and flammable chemical. It was found the company failed to address the risks that had been identified previously and the incident could have been entirely avoided if the company had taken steps to address 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 has pleaded guilty to breaching Sections 2 (1) and 3 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and was fined £930,000 plus 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.”

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