A chemical firm has been sentenced for health and safety breaches after a fire at their premises in Pocklington.
Representatives of LMA Services Ltd appeared at Leeds Magistrates Court over the fire on the Pocklington industrial estate in June 2016.
A warehouse owned by the firm was destroyed after a worker dropped a can of the highly flammable liquid heptane while he was filling it from a larger container. He left the building and raised the alarm, but the fire quickly spread and also damaged an adjacent warehouse and the storage area between them.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the process 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 tap on the bulk container in the warehouse building.
A flammable vapour created during the process came into contact with an ignition source causing the vapour to ignite. HSE’s investigation found that the most likely source of ignition was a spark from the electrical weighing scales.
LMA Services Ltd of Halifax Way, 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.
After the hearing, HSE inspector Dave Stewart said:
“The risks associated with the decanting operation were not fully understood by the company. There were potential ignition sources present within the area where a flammable vapour was likely to occur.
“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.”