An employee was killed when the auger drive unit of a piling rig he was attempting to dismantle flew off its stand and struck him. The Defendant had been contracted to carry out piling around the perimeter of the site in Bedfordshire to form a retaining wall, enabling the site to be excavated for the construction of a new office block.
The company pleaded guilty, was fined £100,000 and ordered to pay costs of £76,128.68.
The Control of Major Accident Hazards Regulations 1999 (COMAH) applies to companies storing, manufacturing or processing large quantities of hazardous substances. The COMAH regulations require operators to notify the Competent Authority if their inventory of hazardous substances exceeds a COMAH threshold. Two thresholds, called lower and upper tier, have been set in order to ensure that proportionate measures are taken to control the risk of a major accident occurring.
A manufacturer of polyurethane foam, who had previously notified the Competent Authority as being a lower tier COMAH site, reverted to an old tank farm while work was conducted on a new process line. During this time 2 tanks at the site, one old and one new, had to be filled independently increasing the company’s inventory of hazardous substances. An inspection revealed that the company had well in excess of 100 tonnes of a very toxic substance, toluene diisocyanate (TDI), present on-site which on its own exceeded the COMAH Top Tier (TT) threshold. An investigation revealed that the COMAH TT threshold had been exceeded 59 times over a period of 5 months and that the company had even ceased to record stock levels over the final 3 months.
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.