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GSK fined £55,000 over 2013 explosion at Scottish plant that injured two employees

22 December 2016

The Daily Record reported on December 21 that the parent company of GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) was fined £55,000 for health and safety failings following an explosion at the Irvine plant in Scotland over three years ago which left two employees injured. Smithkline Beecham Limited pleaded guilty to the health and safety failings following the incident in July 2013.

The charge was a failure to identify suitable and sufficient control measures to reduce, as far as reasonably practical, the risks involved in a certain chemical procedure.
The incident involved potassium clavulanate, a constituent of a number of pharmaceutical products, particularly antibiotics. The court in Glasgow heard it was a potentially dangerous substance which required very careful handling, and the incident was caused when the ingredient was added to an understrength blocking agent, which caused the explosion and a flash fire. The two employees were treated for minor burns.
The prosecution said a detailed investigation by the Health and Safety Executive found that the process had not been adequately risk-assessed and, where risks had been identified, the control measures were not made sufficiently clear.
The defence pointed out GSK’s good health and safety record, which included receiving the British Safety Council’s highest award just last year. It had co-operated fully with the Health and Safety Executive and took immediate steps to ensure that such an accident did not happen again. The process involved was, in fact, no longer carried out at the Irvine plant.
Sheriff Elizabeth McFarlane said that given the guidelines for penalties in such cases and the company’s annual turnover of £391 million, she took a fine of £100,000 as her starting point.

This was reduced to £80,000 given “a number of mitigating factors”. The fine was further reduced because of the timing of the guilty plea.

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