CS gas incidents reported in overseas lorries

Side of RRV with lozenge

During the last few months there have been a number of incidents across the country where workers at retail stores have been affected by an ‘unknown chemical’ whilst unloading goods from lorries that have recently entered the UK from abroad.

These incidents have in many cases led to a multi-agency response from the emergency services and the treatment of casualties for minor burns and breathing difficulties. In the most recent incident the ambulance service had to treat five casualties at the scene.

It appears that these incidents are linked, as on each occasion the lorry was originally believed to have been used for the intended transportation of illegal immigrants into the United Kingdom. On each occasion the vehicles have been checked prior to leaving France and French Police have used a CS gas incapacitant (or similar) in order to remove people from the vehicle.

The vehicle has then, it appears, continued its journey and when it arrived at its UK destination the CS gas has adversely affected the staff unloading the vehicle.

It is suspected that the interiors of the vehicles are not being ventilated / cleaned sufficiently after the incapacitant has been discharged, so even many hours later there still remains a hazard for unsuspecting UK workers. It’s been reported that the incapacitant appeared to have ‘crystallised’ on pallets and goods within the vehicle and once the staff have begun to move items the incapacitant has reactivated.

Staff who respond to incidents of this nature should request the attendance of the HART team and ensure their own safety at all times. 

Whilst the procedure for treating someone who has been exposed to this crystallised CS is the same as someone who has been sprayed from a normal CS discharge, it’s important to remember that until it is proved to be CS crystals, the assumption must be that it could be something more sinister. 

Patient care should be in line with dry decontamination, which is detailed in this initial response aide memoire card.


Published 17th September, 2015

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