Aesica Pharmaceuticals Fined £100,000 Over Workplace Safety Failings

HSE Prosecution After Man Injured In Bromine Incident

24.09.2013

By Rob Dixon

Newcastle firm Aesica Pharmaceuticals has been fined £100,000 and ordered to pay costs, after a worker was left with a life-threatening condition and injuries after inhaling a corrosive substance at work.

In a hearing at Newcastle Crown Court, it was revealed the unnamed worker was sprayed with bromine as he removed cables from a valve connected to pipework at the company’s sites on the Windmill Industrial Estate in Cramlington in February 2012.

During the hearing, it was outlined that a bromine bulk storage tank was taken out of service in 2007 and prepared for an inspection which included the removal of short sections of pipework. The removal left some pipework and valves suspended from a set of flexible bellows.

When the tank failed its inspection, its replacement was postponed until 2012. However, during that period, one end of the pipework remained connected to another tank with bromine.

As the cables were removed by the worker, bromine was released onto the worker. He was in hospital for four weeks and continues to receive treatment after inhaling the liquid and suffering severe skin burns.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive found the bolts on the bellows were badly corroded, while another section of bromine pipework was also found to be inadequately supported.

Commenting on the incident, Sally Rissbrook, a lawyer at Irwin Mitchell who specialises in providing support to victims of accidents at work, said: “This was an awful incident which highlights the huge importance of health and safety when it comes to the handling and management of potentially harmful chemicals and substances in the workplace.

“This case also demonstrates the significant impact that work accidents have on victims, often leaving them with long-term conditions from which they never fully recover.

“Proper maintenance and the use of risk assessments are vital parts of ensuring a robust system of health and safety at work. We would urge all companies within the pharmaceutical sector to ensure lessons are learned from an incident of this nature, with the ultimate aim of preventing such problems from being repeated in the future.”

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