Last year a chemical supplier and a logistics company were both prosecuted following an HSE investigation into a transport incident involving a lorry carrying potassium hydroxide. Potassium hydroxide is corrosive, can cause chemical burns on contact with the skin and eyes, and is corrosive to metals.
A consignment of 170 plastic jerricans containing corrosive 45% potassium hydroxide had been placed onto pallets and loaded into a lorry. The HSE investigation found that the jerrican closures had not been sufficiently tightened, the jerricans had not been securely stacked onto the pallets, and the pallets had not been adequately restrained when loaded onto the vehicle. The investigation found that the jerricans had been loaded by an unsupervised contract employee who had only started in the job that week. He had not loaded dangerous goods before, and had not received training on how to do so.
During the journey, several jerricans toppled over, and when the driver made a stop at a motorway service station, he noticed a leak coming from the trailer. He contacted his supervisor, explaining that the load was corrosive, and requested that the emergency services be contacted. After consulting their line manager, the supervisor instructed the driver to return to their depot, a 12 mile journey from the service station including a motorway and several A roads.
When the vehicle arrived at the depot, the seriousness of the situation was realised and the emergency services were contacted, almost 2 hours after the leak had been discovered.
Six fire appliances attended the depot and decontaminated the vehicle and surrounding area. As the driver and warehouse supervisor were believed to have been exposed to the corrosive material, their contaminated clothing was removed, and they also had to undergo decontamination before being taken to hospital for observation. The area at the service station where the leak had been discovered also had to be decontaminated. The investigation found that approximately 85 litres of potassium hydroxide was lost in the incident.
Both the consignor and carrier pleaded guilty to a single offence under Regulation 5 of the Carriage of Dangerous Goods and Transportable Pressure Equipment Regulations 2009. They were each fined £20,000 with costs of £3,438 and a £120 victim surcharge.
This incident highlights a number of important factors that those supplying or transporting dangerous goods must consider.
Those involved in the transport of dangerous goods must receive adequate training before carrying out their duties. NCEC provides training courses on a variety of subjects including general dangerous goods awareness. Many of our courses are available online, making them ideal for companies that take on temporary staff who need to receive appropriate training before they can start their role.
The lack of adequate training could have been identified by the company’s Dangerous Goods Safety Advisor (DGSA). NCEC also provides a Dangerous Goods Safety Advisor (DGSA) service in which we act as our customers’ appointed DGSA. This involves auditing our customers’ sites to ensure the rules are being complied with, preparation of their annual DGSA reports, and provision of advice on transport matters on an ad hoc basis.
The incident also highlights the need to have authoritative and reliable advice in the event of a chemical incident. NCEC’s Carechem 24 service has a team of chemists on hand 24 hours a day to provide advice on hazards, first aid and clean up over the telephone to those dealing with an incident involving hazardous chemicals.
For more information on NCEC’s training, DGSA and Carechem 24 services, please contact Stephen.firstname.lastname@example.org