Pharmaceutical company found responsible for factory explosion, ordered to pay damages

A pharmaceutical company has been ordered to pay €233,702 in damages after a court found it responsible for a 2009 explosion on the construction site of a new factory.

Crystal Pharma formerly known as Solea Pharma, had commissioned Rite Decor Ltd, a building contractor, to construct a new factory in Bulebel Industrial Estate.

The court heard that in the course of the works, workmen were instructed to place a metal grill over a sump where waste chemicals were collected. This form of pit was connected to a reservoir several metres away via an underground pipe.

On March 3, 2009 as workmen were using a tool to cut off a section of the grill to make space for an overflow connection, sparks from the tool flew onto the liquid in the sump. It ignited and the fire spread through the underground pipe to the reservoir. The ensuing explosion was so great that machinery belonging to Asfaltar Ltd, commissioned to carry out roadworks on the site, was destroyed.

Mr Justice Mark Chetcuti observed that although in the course of construction works responsibility for the site was in the hands of the building contractor, once the handover was effected responsibility passed onto the company. In this case this handover had been completed.

The court observed that the authorities of Crystal Pharma knew of the ongoing tests involving heptane, an insoluble chemical which remained at the surface of the sump and was thus easily flammable.

The court further noted that no danger signs had been set up close to the reservoir even though so many workmen were around.

Crystal Pharma as the owner of the site at the time of the accident was condemned to pay €233,702 to Asfaltar ltd for the machinery damaged in the explosion. Rite Decor Ltd was fined by the Occupational and Health and Safety Authority for failing to carry out a risk assessment, but was not held responsible for damages by the court.


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