A company based on one of Europe’s largest chemical plants is facing a €25 million fine for its “amateurish” approach to health and safety that was implicated in the death of one worker and several injuries.
The public prosecution service (OM) took action in the wake of four incidents at the Chemelot site in Sittard-Geleen, Limburg, between 2015 and 2019.
In the most serious incident, one worker died and another suffered serious burns when naphtha, a flammable hydrocarbon gas, leaked from a storage tank belonging to Sabic, one of four companies operating on the site.
Sabic is accused of failing to give its staff adequate training to handle naphtha. Prosecutors also say it failed to respond for days to an earlier leak in 2015 that compromised its workers’ safety and caused a stench in the local area.
Less than three years later a maintenance workers was injured when liquids leaked from the tank.
The prosecution service says Sabic did not take sufficient steps to correct the problem when previous leaks occurred.
An earlier report by the safety board (OVV) found that the company had been aware since 1971 that the retractable roof of the storage tank did not close properly.
Chemelot, as the organisation with overall responsibility for the site and the permit holder, and the three other companies located there – Borealis Plastomers, OCI Nitrogen and AnQore – also face charges in respect of the safety breaches.
Chemelot said in a statement it regretted “the incidents, the victims and the impact on the environment”, adding that the four companies had carried out improvements to their safety regimes.
The district court in Den Bosch has reserved nine days for the case. A judgment in the case of Sabic is expected to be delivered on Monday.