Pharma companies are obliged to be highly compliant for obvious reasons, and they employ many regulatory compliance experts as a result. It is one of the reasons they use systems such as a vacuum conveyor that can be provided by companies like https://www.aptech.uk.com/pneumatic-conveying-systems/vacuum-conveying/ to ensure that there is a limited chance for contamination of the medical products.
However, a spate of accidents at GSK, in August 2015, has reminded the industry that pharma companies cannot afford to become complacent about safety either.
The three accidents occurred across Glaxo Smith Kline’s manufacturing business, in a number of global locations, affecting operational delivery and proving that health and safety concerns in operational areas need to be as closely scrutinised as manufacturing compliance.
Firms do invest significantly in pharmaceutical consulting, to ensure the efficiency of their businesses. To keep their businesses safe, however, firms also need to keep investing in training and project management.
The affected locations were in America, Belgium and China. In China, a chemicals warehouse in Tianjin exploded, and the resulting blast was so severe that it registered as seismic activity. Scientists were alarmed by the ferocity of the two explosions, one of which was equivalent to 21 tons of TNT. There were at least 121 deaths and catastrophic surrounding damage.
In Belgium, GSK had an explosion at its vaccine plant, and in the same week it had to shut down its American facility, after a cooling tower was found to contain the bacteria that can lead to Legionnaire’s disease.
Exploding boilers are relatively common for large corporations in the pharma industry. In 2012, a fire at a Quebec plant led to a temporary stop in production of around 90pc of Canada’s injectable drugs, impacting the supply of antibiotics, painkillers and anaesthetics. Another boiler explosion in India claimed the life of a worker last year.
Compliance and safety go hand in hand
These three incidents show that a narrow focus on regulatory compliance is not enough to protect workers and to prevent significant damage to pharmaceutical plants. Whilst GSK’s three major incidents in one week is an extreme example, it does highlight the importance of stringent safety checks and legislation. In addition to serious loss of life, there is obviously a commercial impact to such events, as well as environmental repercussions. In light of GSK’s spate of incidents, companies will perhaps look to tighten their operational compliance measures and safety procedures to ensure that similar events cannot happen to them.