Page last updated at 15:04 GMT, Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Firm fined after chemical explosion closed motorways

Drums flew into the air as the chemicals exploded causing a huge fire at the Red Scar industrial estate in Ribbleton

An international waste management company has been fined £150,000 after a major chemical fire closed two motorways in Lancashire.

Drums of chemicals exploded at Veolia ES Cleanaway on the Red Scar industrial estate in Ribbleton in July 2007.

Sections of the M55 and the M6 were closed during the morning rush hour as 66 firefighters tackled the flames.

The firm admitted two health and safety breaches at Preston Crown Court. It was also told to pay £90,000 court costs.

A 15-month investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) revealed the company did not do enough to ensure dangerous chemicals on its site in Ribbleton were stored safely, nor did it provide adequate training for its staff.

The fire at the waste site put lives in danger and caused gridlock on local roads
Linda Murray, HSE principal inspector for Lancashire

It was prosecuted by the HSE for breaching two of the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002.

The court heard the fire started just after 0600 BST on 2 July 2007 in an open area of the site, which is used to store drums of chemicals.

Firefighters reported seeing drums rocketing into the air and off the site after setting alight.

Emergency services closed the industrial estate and the motorways due to fears that smoke and fumes would travel if the wind changed direction.

The fire was extinguished by mid-afternoon after more than 132,000 litres (29,000 gallons) of chemicals were set alight.

HSE inspectors believe it was caused by lithium batteries igniting nearby waste materials.

Linda Murray, HSE principal inspector for Lancashire, said: "Any businesses that have flammable substances on their premises need to take appropriate measures to minimise the risk of fires or explosions.

"The fire at the waste site put lives in danger and caused gridlock on local roads. I hope this case will make businesses think seriously about what they need to do to prevent fires in the future."



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