Monday 7 October 2013

PHS fined £150,000 following aerosol explosion at waste site

An explosion occurred at a waste management site due to aerosols being allowed into a shredder. This caused three workers to sustain serious burns.

The circumstances were:

  • 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.
  • A risk assessment carried out in April 2010 identified the risk of aerosols being added to the shredder as being 'very unlikely', and the consequences of this happening as 'moderate' 
  • This assessment was inadequate and meant than no action was taken. 
  • 12 October 2010, 150 aerosol cans containing extremely flammable substances were put into an industrial shredder.
  • 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.
  • There was also extensive damage to the large warehouse that housed the shredder.

PHS were fined on 3 October 2013.

The HSE Principal Inspector said:
"The chemical waste industry has the potential to be extremely hazardous, and PHS could and should have done more to protect the lives of its employees and the public. The explosion and fire led to three workers being seriously injured and caused considerable disruption in the local area. The issue of waste materials being wrongly labelled is well known in the industry, so PHS shouldn't just have assumed it could add cardboard boxes to the industrial shredder without first checking what was in them. It could easily have made sure boxes were opened before they were put in the shredder. If it had, then the explosion and fire could have been avoided."

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