Chemical firm fined after explosion blows hole in factory roof

Pays fine of £80,000 and a further £80,000 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching Health and Safety at Work Act

A UK chemical firm, which produces metal catalysts used by the pharmaceutical and petrochemical industries, has been fined after a hydrogen explosion blew a vessel lid through a factory roof, leaving a worker with minor injuries.

CatAlloy was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) following the incident at its plant on Moss Bank Road in Widnes, Cheshire on 25 November 2011.

Warrington Crown Court heard on Thursday 24 September that the company had made a modification to one of its reactors.

The explosion occurred on the first day of production following the modification and blew the lid and other equipment through the corrugated panels on the roof of the factory and into a neighbouring car park. A worker also suffered cuts to his hand and back.

The HSE investigation found the firm had fitted a new seal on the reactor to prevent air getting in, but had not properly considered the risks of the increased pressure inside the equipment during the production process.

CatAlloy was fined £80,000 and ordered to pay £80,000 in prosecution costs after pleading guilty to two breaches of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 by failing to ensure the safety of workers.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Mhairi Duffy said: 'CatAlloy deals with potentially dangerous substances every day and so it’s vital nothing is left to chance when it comes to the safety of its workers.

'The company should have carefully considered the risks of sealing the reactor but instead it continued with the production process and there was a major hydrogen explosion as a result.

'Luckily, only one worker suffered minor injuries in the blast but the consequences could easily have been fatal.'