Steelmaker Fined $1.2 Million for Toxic Release

"It was extremely fortunate no one was seriously affected by this incident. Had the flammable vapor cloud ignited, this could have resulted in multiple fatalities," HSE inspector Stephen Hargreaves said. "This incident highlights the need for all duty holders to implement and address all concerns and potential risks which have been identified. Tata's failure to do so in this case put a number of workers at risk of serious harm."

Britain's Health and Safety Executive announced that Tata Steel has been fined about $1.19 million for a release of toxic and flammable substances from its Scunthorpe facility on June 17, 2011. Hull Crown Court heard that a large quantity of benzole -- a coal tar product that is a combination of benzene and toluene -- was released at Tata's Scunthorpe Steel Works, producing a large, flammable vapor cloud that exposed five workers to the risk of serious injury, or death if the cloud had ignited.

Two of the workers suffered breathing difficulties, were transported to a hospital, and were discharged the following day.

HSE's investigation found Tata Steel failed to take appropriate measures to prevent the release of the toxic and flammable chemical and failed to address risks that had previously been identified. The incident could have been avoided entirely had it done so, according to HSE, which reported the site in Scunthorpe is a top tier Control of Major Accidents Hazards site due to the large amounts of highly flammable and toxic chemicals stored there.

Tata Steel UK Limited of Millbank, London, pleaded guilty to breaching Sections 2 (1) and 3 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. The company was fined £930,000 (about $1.19 million in U.S. dollars) and ordered to pay costs of £70,000.

"It was extremely fortunate no one was seriously affected by this incident. Had the flammable vapor cloud ignited, this could have resulted in multiple fatalities," HSE inspector Stephen Hargreaves said. "This incident highlights the need for all duty holders to implement and address all concerns and potential risks which have been identified. Tata's failure to do so in this case put a number of workers at risk of serious harm."

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