A chemical company has been sentenced for extreme health and safety breaches after a fire quickly took hold of the main building and storage areas on site.
Whilst the incident in question took place back in 2016, it still stands today as a reminder for all health and safety risks associated with fire. The incident started when Heptane was being decanted from a bulk storage container into four-litre metal cans. A flammable vapour created during the processed came into contact with an ignition source causing it to ignite. The worker at the time noticed this, dropped the can he was filling, left the warehouse quickly and sounded the alarm. He was fortunately left without any serious injuries but still the fire spread quickly, destroyed the main warehouse, an adjacent one and another external storage area located between the two warehouses.
The initial findings from HSE noted the process to decant the Heptane between two containers 'involved placing a bulk container of heptane onto racking at a height of about 1.5m. A table was then positioned beneath the bulk container onto which a small electrical weighing scale was positioned. Metal cans were placed onto the scale and an employee filled the cans by weight by manually operating a table'.
HSE also noted that the risks with the decanting operation were not fully understood by the company as they failed to notice there was potential ignition sources present in the same area where a flammable vapour was likely to occur, due to the Heptane gas. It seems the ignition source in this event was the electrical weighing scales, which had been used to correctly measure the amount of gas in the cans.
LMA Services Ltd of Halifax Way, Pocklington Industrial Estate, Pocklington pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 6 (3) of the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002. The company has been fined £14,000 and ordered to pay £2,377 in costs.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Dace Stewart commented 'This case highlights the importance of assessing risks associated with flammable atmospheres. Employers should ensure that adequate measures are taken to reduce the formation of flammable atmospheres so far as is reasonably practicable, and to ensure that only suitable electrical equipment is used in areas where a flammable atmosphere may be present.'