Chemical firm fined $90k over acid valve failure leading to leg amputation

A South West chemical company has been fined $90,000 over an acid spill in February 2010 which seriously burned four factory workers – one of which had to have his leg amputated as a result of the injuries.

Millennium Inorganic Chemical was fined in Perth Magistrate’s Court this week after pleading guilty to the charges, of failing to do the proper safety checks on an outdated sulphuric acid pipe work system.

The Department of Mines and Petroleum’s Resources Safety Divsion investigated the incident, which occurred at the company’s Australind chemical plant.

The company pleaded guilty to breaching Section 8 (1) of the Dangerous Goods and Safety Act 2004 and was sentenced on Friday, September 16 (2011).

“A problem was detected with the system that indicated acid was not flowing into the finishing tanks,” said resources safety director dangerous goods safety Philip Hine.

“Three staff went to identify the cause of the problem when a valve failed and sprayed them with concentrated sulphuric acid.”

All four workers sustained acid burns – one when he came to the aid of the other three workers. Two were severely burned, one of whom subsequently had to have a leg amputated.

“The investigation by the department found that the valve that failed was from the old pipe work system and was designed to carry 40 percent sulphuric acid,” Hine said.

“The valve was exposed to 98 percent sulphuric acid for an extended period of time. This resulted in the valve diaphragm dissolving and the failure of the valve.”