Pigment maker handed £200k fine

HSE: "This was a disturbing incident"
HSE: "This was a disturbing incident"

A manufacturer of specialist pigments used for a range of applications including ink and papermaking has been fined £200,000 after a driver suffered chemical burns at its site.

The incident occurred at the Tronox Pigment UK site in Stallingborough near Grimsby, in August 2022.

A tanker driver had been offloading a delivery at the facility and while doing so was standing in a puddle of what he assumed to be rainwater.

It had been raining all day and the drains were blocked.

However, the driver was actually standing in a pool of water that contained caustic, a corrosive chemical substance.

The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) report into the incident stated: “The subsequent burns led to him requiring skin grafts to the underside of both feet. The smallest toe on each of his feet were also amputated. He was unable to work for 12 weeks.”

The caustic had leaked from Tronox’s scrubber system and secondary containment.

It then ended up on the roadway after the site’s sump pumps failed to pump the chemicals away.

HSE inspector Angus Robbins commented: “This was a disturbing incident, given that an innocent worker was suffering severe burns without, at first, realising. Other delivery drivers visiting the area could also have been put at risk.

“The incident could so easily have been avoided by simply carrying out correct control measures and safe working practices.”

HSE found that Tronox had not responded adequately to control the risk of a loss of containment after the site’s sump pumps failed to work. The firm’s failure to ensure the drains were kept clear also meant drivers did not recognise pools of standing liquid as a potential risk.

At Grimsby Magistrates’ Court on 15 September, Tronox Pigment UK of pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) and Section 33(1)(a) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

The firm was fined £200,000 and ordered to pay £7,500 in costs.