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Chemical firm fined for Burscough explosion

04-10-2013

Photo shows the aftermath of the blaze at Burscough Industrial Estate

A chemical firm has been ordered to pay £150,000 in fines and costs over a major explosion at a waste management site in Lancashire that caused three workers to sustain serious burns.

Personnel Hygiene Services (PHS) Ltd. was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) following the blast at Burscough Industrial Estate in Burscough on 12 October 2010, which occurred when aerosol cans were put into an industrial shredder.

Liverpool Crown Court heard that three employees working near the shredder were caught in a fireball, and surrounding buildings had to be evacuated while firefighters dealt with the resulting blaze.

Nearly 60 police officers were deployed to oversee road closures and control a cordon around the site, and a thick cloud of smoke developed above the fire and was seen drifting from Burscough towards Southport. There was also extensive damage to the large warehouse that housed the shredder.

A joint investigation by HSE and the Environment Agency found the company had allowed around 150 cans containing extremely flammable substances to be put into a large shredder at the site on Tollgate Crescent.

The investigation found that PHS did not have a procedure for checking the contents of boxes of waste materials delivered to the site. The company also failed to ensure that a chemical specialist monitored the waste being put into the shredder to check for flammable substances.

Finally, a risk assessment carried out in April 2010 was found to be wholly inadequate after the company wrongly identified the risk of aerosols being added to the shredder as being 'very unlikely', and the consequences of this happening as 'moderate' meaning no action was taken as a result.

PHS Ltd., of Western Industrial Estate, Lon-Y-Llyn, Caerphilly, Wales, was fined £105,000 and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £45,000 after pleading guilty to a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 on 3 October 2013.

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