A chemical and alcohol producer has been ordered to pay almost £300,000 after a fire that destroyed its distillery warehouse in the Black Country.
Wolverhampton Crown Court heard how a highly flammable liquid called ethyl acetate was being transferred from a bulk storage tank into an intermediate bulk container when the fire broke out in 2012. A 21-year-old member of staff was engulfed by the flames and suffered 20% burns to his head, neck and hands. The fire also destroyed the warehouse and caused damage to nearby cars and houses. It was brought under control by West Mercia Fire and Rescue Service
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that it was started by a discharge of static electricity generated by the transfer of the liquid.
The Company who have traded without incident for over 50 pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and was fined £270,000. It was also ordered to pay costs of £25,009. The fines available to the judge under the new fines regime were up to £2.5 million!
HSE inspector Kieron Jones said: “Companies that fail to ensure the integrity of their safety critical equipment place their employees, members of the public, emergency services and their entire livelihood at risk of serious harm.
“Poor management of highly flammable liquids can have catastrophic results both for individuals and businesses.”
It is common practice within industry and the waste sector to move flammable solvents in unsuitable packaging such as plastic drums and IBC’s that are not suitably rated for this purpose. This sad lesson should serve as a reminder to all those that package flammable materials to check the packaging chosen.