A major incident in which a poisonous vapour cloud shut down shipping lanes on the River Humber near Grimsby and Hull serves as a reminder of why proper Zone 1 equipment must be used when working with hazardous materials.

In the incident on March 5th 2010, a container of titanium tetrachloride at a Grimsby chemical plant came into contact with water, triggering a reaction that ruptured the vessel.

When the liquid inside made contact with the air, it reacted again, producing a large cloud of poisonous vapour that drifted out over the Humber.

One worker died two weeks later, while another suffered permanent breathing difficulties, and the River Humber’s shipping lanes were closed for hours until the situation was brought under control.

Sadly the company did not learn the lessons from this incident – and on July 27th 2011 a second incident occurred in which titanium tetrachloride vapour was released while a container was being cleaned.

The company had made their own containment plates to use during the cleaning, but they were wholly inadequate for the job, highlighting the importance of properly manufactured Zone 1 equipment when working with hazardous chemicals and potentially fatal reactions.

HSE inspector Brian Fotheringham said this week: “The company still did not learn lessons from the 2010 incident and had another significant release of the same toxic gas just over a year later.

“This case must act as a reminder to the industry that there can be no room for complacency when dealing with such dangerous chemicals.”