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Widnes Chemical Firm Fined Following Factory Explosion

A worker at a chemical plant in Widnes suffered minor injuries when a hydrogen explosion blew a vessel lid through a factory ceiling.


Catolloy Ltd, based on Moss Bank Road, Widnes, manufactures metal catalysts for the petrochemical and pharmaceutical industries and had recently carried out modifications to a single reactor when the incident took place in November 2011.

Warrington Crown Curt heard that on the first day of production following the modification there was an explosion that blew the lid off the reactor. The lid, along with other equipment, was blasted through metal panels on the factory roof by the force of the explosion and landed in a nearby car park.

The explosion led to a worker sustaining cuts to his back and to his hand.

Sentencing & Fines

An investigation carried out by the HSE revealed the firm had not taken into account the potential risks posed by increased pressure inside the reactor during production process, due to a new seal being fitted to the equipment.

After pleading guilty to two breaches of the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974 by failing to guarantee the safety of its workers, Catalloy Ltd was fined a total of £80,000 and ordered to pay a further £80,000 for prosecution costs.

HSE inspector Mhairi Duffy said following the hearing:

“Catalloy deals with potentially dangerous substances every day and so it’s vital nothing is left to chance when it comes to the safety of its workers.

“The company should have carefully considered the risks of sealing the reactor but instead it continued with the production process and there was a major hydrogen explosion as a result.

“Luckily, only one worker suffered minor injuries in the blast but the consequences could easily have been fatal.”

Accidents at Work – Expert Advice

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Source: Health & Safety Executive

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