£20k fine for Northants firm which exposed staff to hazardous chemicals

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A chemical manufacturing company from Northamptonshire has been fined £20,000 for exposing its employees to a range of hazardous chemicals.

One member of staff, a 46-year-old despatch officer, was diagnosed with occupational asthma and rhinitis after handling a variety of toxic substances, mainly in liquid form, that were classed as hazardous to health at Daventry-based Endeavour Speciality Chemicals Ltd.

The substances are used for flavouring and smell purposes in food production.

The female employee is now no longer able to work with chemicals and has been found another job within the firm.

Northampton Magistrates’ Court heard on Friday how employees were required to manually pour substances into containers ready for despatch, but the necessary ventilation and appropriate organisation of the workplace had not been provided.

A Health and Safety Executive investigation found the company had failed to assess the risk of ill-health from packing operations involving chemicals, and had also failed to implement the necessary control measures required to prevent, or adequately control employees’ exposure.

The firm, now based at the Low March Industrial Estate, admitted breaching Regulations 6(1), and 7(1) of the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 and was fined £15,000 and ordered to pay costs of £5,000.

Speaking after the hearing, Inspector James Wright said: “The company’s failure to assess the risks, and implement control measures for what was a simple work process, has resulted in an employee suffering years of ill-health, and has probably prevented her from ever working with chemicals again.

“The measures that were required to have made this work safe were inexpensive and not difficult to implement. These could have included effective fume cupboards suitable for the work, local exhaust ventilation, good hygiene practices, exposure monitoring and suitable PPE. Companies should ensure they have suitable arrangements in place to manage the risks from the handling of hazardous substances.”

”Every year, thousands of workers are made ill by hazardous substances, contracting lung disease such as asthma, cancer and skin disease such as dermatitis. These diseases cost many millions of pounds each year to industry, to replace the trained worker, to society, in disability allowances and medicines, and individuals, who may lose their jobs.”