• Robert Spicer

Hydrogen explosion in Widnes factory: health and safety prosecution

Hydrogen explosion: £80,000 fine

Health and Safety Executive v Catalloy Ltd (2015) Warrington Crown Court, September 25

Catalloy Ltd, a chemical company which makes metal catalysts, has been fined following a hydrogen explosion.

Significant points of the case

  • In November 2011 the company made a modification to a reactor at its site in Widnes. On the first day of production after the modification, the reactor exploded. It blew the lid and other equipment through the roof of the factory.

  • The company had fitted a new seal on the reactor to prevent air getting into it. It had not properly considered the risks of the increased pressure inside the reactor.

The company was fined £80,000 plus £80,000 costs for breaches of sections 2 and 3, HSW Act, for failing to ensure the health and safety of employees and non-employees.

An HSE inspector commented after the case that the company dealt with potentially dangerous substances every day and it was vital that nothing was left to chance when it came 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.

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