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You should always err on the side of caution when it comes to dealing with hazardous chemicals, and particularly if you’re in a densely populated area where the risk of exposure if far higher.

This wasn’t the case in April of 2014 when a chemical processing company allowed employees from a neighbouring workplace to be exposed to harmful chemicals during a routine transfer.

As poisonous Nitric fumes were being transferred from a road tanker into storage, it was discovered that substances were escaping from the building via a vent and endangering the employees at a neighbouring facility.

One employee was particularly unlucky during the incident in that exposure from the vent had left him hospitalised the following day. Nitric acid fumes can result in severe implications if inhaled and are likely to result in severe coughing, respiratory tract irritation, delayed effects, pulmonary function changes, pneumonitis, pulmonary edema and dyspnea.

The chemical company responsible were fined a total of £15,318 at court on the 29th of June with HSE’s Caroline Skingle on hand to deliver her thoughts following the verdict:

“There is a high level of public concern about such sites and they should adequately control the risks that arise from their operations. On this occasion the company fell short of the required control standards for the safe transfer of corrosive nitric acid which resulted in people being affected offsite.”

All companies have a responsibility to ensure that their workforce is safe from risk, whether that risk is climbing a ladder or the unexpected chance of exposure to poisonous chemicals. If you feel like you could benefit from more information on the latter, Safety Media’s COSHH e-Learning course is perfectly suited to help you and your employees stay clued in.

Alternatively, our Infection Control course and Laboratory Safety course could be particularly relevant. Find these and many more in our course library.

source: HSE