Poor maintenance of equipment led to a worker becoming engulfed in flames, according to an investigation into a serious fire in the Black Country.
A worker was lucky to escape alive following the incident at a distillery in Oldbury, West Midlands on November 26, 2012.
Dangers of highly flammable liquids
Alcohol Limited was fined £270,000 for serious health and safety failings after the flames injured one of its employees and destroyed the structure of a warehouse and its contents.
A highly flammable chemical – ethyl acetate – was being moved between two containers when the accident at work occurred, Wolverhampton Crown Court heard.
A 21-year-old man was severely burnt in the incident and sustained 20% burns to his head, neck and hands.
As well as destroying the warehouse on Crosswell Road in Oldbury, the flames and smoke caused damage to nearby vehicles and properties.
West Mercia Fire and Rescue Service attended the scene and a 150-metre evacuation zone was imposed around the Langley Green site.
Static electricity could have sparked fire
A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation concluded that a discharge of static electricity generated by the transfer of the liquid is the most likely source of ignition to the flames.
Investigators also determined the pipework and associated valves had been poorly maintained and the company had failed to properly inspect and supervise the equipment and work being carried out.
Hertfordshire-based Alcohols Limited pleaded guilty to breaching Sections 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, and was fined £270,000 and ordered to pay costs of £25,009.
HSE inspector Kieron Jones said employees, members of the public and emergency services are risk of serious harm when firms fail to ensure the integrity of their equipment.
“Poor management of highly flammable liquids can have catastrophic results both for individuals and businesses,” he added.
Source: Health and Safety Executive
Date Published: December 2, 2016
Author: Jonathan Brown