An employee fell approximately 11 feet (3.6 metres) on to a first floor gantry when checking a bag filter on a second floor. The employee stepped backwards through a trap door when carrying out a daily check of a spray-dryer bag filter. The employee received very severe injuries. At the time no formal procedures were in place to ensure that measures were in place to prevent falls on occasions when the trap door needed to be open.
Following the accident the company an Improvement Notice was served requiring the employer to conduct suitable and sufficient risk assessments for maintenance activities. The company were successfully prosecuted, fined £40,000 and ordered to pay £15,000 costs.
The Control of Major Accident Hazards Regulations 1999 (COMAH) apply to companies storing, manufacturing or processing quantities of hazardous substances in excess of specified thresholds (Lower Tier and Top Tier). Additional requirements apply to Top Tier COMAH sites, including the need to submit a written safety report.
The COMAH regulations require operators to notify the Competent Authority (HSE and the Environment Agency) if their inventory of hazardous substances exceeds either COMAH threshold.
A manufacturer of polyurethane foam, who had previously notified the Competent Authority as being a lower tier COMAH site increased their inventory of toluene diisocyante (TDI), a named very toxic substance, in excess of the 100 tonnes COMAH Top Tier (TT) threshold. An investigation revealed that the TT threshold had been exceeded 59 times over a period of 6 months, but that the company had neglected to notify the Competent Authority of their change in COMAH status and failed to submit a safety report.
The Company was successfully prosecuted for (i) failing to notify HSE of their COMAH status and (ii) failure to submit a COMAH safety report. The Company was fined £3000 and ordered to pay costs of £440.