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Littleborough firm in court after employee badly burned in factory fire

Date:
14 February 2014

A Littleborough factory has been sentenced for safety failings following a major fire which left an employee with severe burns.

Multiroof Building Products Ltd was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) following the blaze on 28 May 2012, which destroyed the entire factory and several neighbouring businesses.

A 25-year-old employee from Rochdale, who has asked not to be named, sustained burns to his neck and hands, was in hospital for several weeks and has been unable to return to work.

Trafford Magistrates’ Court heard the factory, at Stansfield Mill in Calderbrook, mixed flammable solvents with hot bitumen to produce roof treatment coatings.

On the day of the incident, workers were using a hose to feed around one tonne of solvents from a plastic container, known as a composite IBC, into an adjacent storage tank containing around 20 tonnes of hot bitumen.

Without warning, there was a sudden whoosh and flames erupted from the top of the plastic container. The fire quickly spread and within minutes the whole factory was alight. A total of 21 fire engines were required to tackle the blaze.

The HSE investigation found that Multiroof had allowed flammable vapours, created by the mixing process, to be released in the work area where there were potential ignition sources.

Other containers of flammable substances were stored close to the hot bitumen tank, increasing the risk that a fire would quickly spread.

Multiroof Building Products Ltd, which is no longer operating at the site, was fined £5,000 and ordered to pay £6,000 in prosecution costs after pleading guilty to two breaches of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Anthony Polec said:

“An employee suffered burns that will affect him for the rest of his life because simple safety precautions were not taken.

“Multiroof knew its manufacturing process involved working with highly flammable substances but not enough was done to control flammable vapours or remove potential sources of ignition.

“The fire caused considerable disruption in the local area and destroyed several neighbouring businesses, but it could easily have been prevented.

“This case should act as a warning to companies that work with flammable substances of the potential consequences of not taking suitable precautions and making sure safety measures are in place.”

Information on preventing fires and explosions in workplaces in available at www.hse.gov.uk/fireandexplosion.

Notes to Editors:

  1. The Health and Safety Executive is Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety. It aims to reduce work-related death, injury and ill health. It does so through research, information and advice; promoting training; new or revised regulations and codes of practice; and working with local authority partners by inspection, investigation and enforcement. www.hse.gov.uk
  2. The Solvent Industry Association has published SIA Guidance Note 54 – “Guidance for the Storage of Liquids in Intermediate Bulk Containers”, and  SIA Guidance Note 47 – ”Flammable Solvents & the Hazard of Static Electricity, available from their website http://www.solvents.org.uk/
  3. Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 states: “It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees.”
  4. Section 3(1) states: “It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees.”
  5. HSE news releases are available at www.hse.gov.uk/press.

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