On 12 June 2019, a company mistakenly mixed an Intermediate Bulk Container (IBC) containing approximately 700 kg of concentrated sulphuric acid into a mixing vessel which already contained 1,600 litres of sodium hypochlorite solution. This released a cloud of toxic chlorine gas that spread through its factory, yard and surrounding area resulting in staff needing hospital treatment and significant damage to the factory.
There was no clear evacuation plan for workers caught on-site, with several taken to hospital with breathing difficulties – fortunately no one suffered long-term effects.
A HSE investigation found the incident happened because a dedicated mixing plant had not been brought back into service after maintenance work, and the company had failed to introduce effective records management for the temporary manual system.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector, Malcolm Whyatt, said: “...The company had previously designed their system to eliminate the possibility of human error, by reverting to a manual process they created a situation where mixing incompatible chemicals was possible. Chlorine can have severe health effects at very low levels, and they were fortunate that no-one was more seriously injured.”
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