Last reviewed 4 August 2021

Granville Oil & Chemical Company Ltd, manufacturers of quality motor oils, automotive chemicals and workshop ancillaries, has been sentenced for safety breaches after a worker suffered chemical burns to both arms and one leg.

Sheffield Magistrates’ Court heard that in September 2016, a worker was involved in a spillage incident when tasked with making engine degreaser at a plant in Rotherham. The water-based product is made by blending a solution known as “ultra-concentrate” with water.

The worker used a forklift truck to lift a container carrying 1000 litres of ultra-concentrate in order to decant 250 litres of concentrate into three containers on the ground, each of which contained 750 litres of water. The company had specifically manufactured a rigid metal pipe to transfer the concentrate from one container to another. As he drove the forklift truck into position, the forks of the truck suddenly dropped one or two feet. This caused the metal transfer pipe to hit the ground and break. Ultra-concentrate began to cascade out of the container. Having exited the cab of the forklift truck, the worker put his hand over the damaged valve to try and stem the flow. A large pool of concentrate had already formed on the ground and he stood in it to reach the valve. The worker suffered chemical burns to both arms and one leg which required hospital treatment.

Investigating Health and Safety Executive officers found that the worker had no eye protection and his clothes were soaked in ultra-concentrate. He wore only safety boots, a high visibility waistcoat and a pair of latex gloves. HSE found that there was no drench shower on site and workers were given no assistance or instructions to change from clothing or wash properly in the event of contact with harmful substances.

After pleading guilty to breaching s.2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work, etc Act 1974, Granville Oil & Chemical Company was fined £100,000 and ordered to pay £9928.60 in costs.

Businesses are reminded to have in place systems to deal with spillages, such as:

  • a means of containing the spread of the material to other areas. This may involve the use of temporary diking, sandbags, dry sand, earth or proprietary booms/absorbent pads

  • rendering the material safe by treating with appropriate chemicals, eg diluting to a safe condition

  • absorbing treated material onto inert carrier material to allow the material to be cleared up and removed to a safe place for disposal or further treatment as appropriate.

Employers are responsible for providing, replacing and paying for all personal protective equipment where it is deemed necessary through the risk assessment process to mitigate any remaining risk from exposure to hazardous substances.