A CHEMICAL firm has been ordered to pay £150,000 over a major explosion at a waste management site in Burscough that left three workers with serious burns.
Personnel Hygiene Services (PHS) Ltd was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) following the blast at Burscough Industrial Estate on October 12, 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 blaze.
Nearly 60 police officers were deployed to 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 discovered that 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 also found that PHS did not have adequate measures in place to protect its staff from harm.
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 last week to a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
Speaking after the hearing, the HSE’s principal inspector, Neil Rothwell, 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 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 shredder without first checking what was in them.
“The explosion could have been avoided.”