3rd May 2023
Halifax Company Fined £30k After Large Fire
A West Yorkshire-based supply company has recently been fined £30k after an explosion of flammable liquid led to a fire at its premises in Halifax.
An employee at the site had been decanting a flammable chemical named heptane from a metal drum into a plastic bulk container without suitable precautions. The so-called ‘splash filling’ where flammable liquid is freely poured generated a static charge which in turn created a spark which caused an explosion during the decanting process. To compound matters there was significant flammable material nearby due to the poor practice of storing cardboard boxes at the site, this fuelled the fire allowing it to spread significantly throughout the property.
Other employees working at the site were put at risk when the fire spread rapidly throughout other production buildings on site. Amazingly, however, nobody was physically injured in the fire which needed to be tackled by more than 60 firefighters at its height.
An investigation by the HSE discovered that the decanting of flammable liquids had been unsafely undertaken at the company for several years despite industry guidance being widely available.
The company appeared at Leeds Magistrates Court where they pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2 (1) of the Health and Safety etc Act 1974. The company was fined £30,000 and ordered to pay £8,030.94 in costs.
After the hearing, the HSE Inspector involved in the case said: “Implementing appropriate control measures when handling flammable liquids is essential to prevent the generation of a static charge that can result in explosions and fires.
The Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002 (DSEAR) apply to any substances used or present at work that could, if not properly controlled, cause harm to people as a result of a fire, explosion or similar incident.
DSEAR places duties on all employers to assess and eliminate or reduce risks from dangerous substances so far as is reasonably practicable. Where a dangerous substance is (or is liable to be) present in a workplace then the employer must ensure that a suitable risk assessment has been undertaken. DSEAR has a hierarchical approach for the elimination or reduction of the risks from dangerous substances:
- Reduce the quantity of dangerous substances to a minimum;
- Avoid or minimise releases of dangerous substances;
- Control releases of dangerous substances at source;
- Prevent the formation of an explosive atmosphere, including by ventilation;
- Collect, contain and remove any releases to a safe place;
- Avoid ignition sources;
- Avoid adverse conditions (such as exceeding pressure/temperature limits) that could lead to danger;
- Keep incompatible substances apart.
Following implementation of the above-mentioned control measures, the next priority is the identification and implementation of mitigation measures to reduce the detrimental effects of a fire, explosion or similar incident. These are as follows:
- Reduce the number of employees exposed to the risk;
- Provide plant that is explosion resistant;
- Provide explosion suppression or explosion relief equipment;
- Take measures to control or minimise the spread of fires or explosions;
- Provide suitable personal protective equipment (PPE).
For any queries regarding DSEAR assessments please call the Lighthouse Health & Safety advice line on 0300 303 5228 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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